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Virology. 2003 Apr 25;309(1):99-107.

Mu-opioid modulation of HIV-1 coreceptor expression and HIV-1 replication.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Center for Substance Abuse Research, and the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


A substantial proportion of HIV-1-infected individuals are intravenous drug users (i.v.DUs) who abuse opiates. Opioids induce a number of immunomodulatory effects that may directly influence HIV-1 disease progression. In the present report, we have investigated the effect of opioids on the expression of the major HIV-1 coreceptors CXCR4 and CCR5. For these studies we have focused on opiates which are ligands for the mu-opioid receptor. Our results show that DAMGO, a selective mu-opioid agonist, increases CXCR4 and CCR5 expression in both CD3(+) lymphoblasts and CD14(+) monocytes three- to fivefold. Furthermore, DAMGO-induced elevation of HIV-1 coreceptor expression translates into enhanced replication of both X4 and R5 viral strains of HIV-1. We have confirmed the role of the mu-opioid receptor based on the ability of a mu-opioid receptor-selective antagonist to block the effects of DAMGO. We have also found that morphine enhances CXCR4 and CCR5 expression and subsequently increases both X4 and R5 HIV-1 infection. We suggest that the capacity of mu-opioids to increase HIV-1 coreceptor expression and replication may promote viral binding, trafficking of HIV-1-infected cells, and enhanced disease progression.

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