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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Jan;31(1):204-11.

The mu-opioid receptor polymorphism A118G predicts cortisol responses to naloxone and stress.

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Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


A polymorphism in the mu-opioid receptor (MOR) (A118G) has been shown to increase beta-endorphin binding affinity, theoretically placing greater inhibitory tone on hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) neurons. We hypothesized that the minor allele (G) would predict cortisol responses to both pharmacological (naloxone) and psychological (stress) activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Healthy subjects (mean age 25.2 years, SD 9.2 years) completed a naloxone challenge (n=74) and/or the modified Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) (n=86). For the naloxone challenge, two baseline blood samples were obtained. Then, five increasing doses of i.v. naloxone were administered at 30-min intervals and 12 additional blood samples were collected at 15-min intervals. The TSST consisted of 5-min of public speaking and 5-min of mental arithmetic exercises. Three baseline and five post-TSST blood samples were drawn. Both the naloxone and TSST groups had significant adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol responses to their respective challenges (P<0.001). There were no differences in baseline ACTH, baseline cortisol, or ACTH response by genotype in either the naloxone or the TSST group. Among subjects expressing a G allele, there was a higher cortisol response to naloxone (P=0.046), but a lower cortisol response to the TSST (P=0.044). In conclusion, the minor allele (G) was associated with a robust cortisol response to naloxone blockade, but a blunted response to psychosocial stress. We speculate that increased opioid avidity of the minor allele receptor contributes to the differential response to naloxone vs stress.

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