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J Immunol. 2002 Apr 15;168(8):4025-33.

Role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation and Fas-Fas ligand interaction in morphine-induced macrophage apoptosis.

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Immunology and Inflammation Center, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Research Institute and Division of Kidney Diseases and Hypertension, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, NY 11040, USA.


In this study, we evaluated the molecular mechanisms involved in morphine-induced macrophage apoptosis. Both morphine and TGF-beta promoted P38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation, and this phosphorylation was inhibited by SB 202190 as well as by SB 203580. Anti-TGF-beta Ab as well as naltrexone (an opiate receptor antagonist) inhibited morphine-induced macrophage P38 MAPK phosphorylation. Anti-TGF-beta Ab also attenuated morphine-induced p53 as well as inducible NO synthase expression; in contrast, N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, an inhibitor of NO synthase, inhibited morphine-induced P38 MAPK phosphorylation and Bax expression. Morphine also enhanced the expression of both Fas and Fas ligand (FasL), whereas anti-FasL Ab prevented morphine-induced macrophage apoptosis. Moreover, naltrexone inhibited morphine-induced FasL expression. In addition, macrophages either deficient in FasL or lacking p53 showed resistance to the effect of morphine. Inhibitors of both caspase-8 and caspase-9 partially prevented the apoptotic effect of morphine on macrophages. In addition, caspase-3 inhibitor prevented morphine-induced macrophage apoptosis. These findings suggest that morphine-induced macrophage apoptosis proceeds through opiate receptors via P38 MAPK phosphorylation. Both TGF-beta and inducible NO synthase play an important role in morphine-induced downstream signaling, which seems to activate proteins involved in both extrinsic (Fas and FasL) and intrinsic (p53 and Bax) cell death pathways.

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