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Endocrinology. 1991 Jun;128(6):3253-8.

Role of adrenal cortical activation in the immunosuppressive effects of chronic morphine treatment.

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Department of Immunology, Pulmonary and Leukotriene Research, Eli Lilly Co., Indianapolis, Indiana 46285.


Implantation of a 75-mg morphine pellet in sham-adrenalectomized male C3H/HeN mice resulted in significant elevations of serum corticosterone levels within 6 h. Corticosterone levels remained elevated (3- to 4-fold) for 72 h and had returned to normal by 120 h postimplantation. Within 48 h of pellet implantation, morphine-pelleted mice exhibited marked reductions in spleen (35%) and thymus weight (56%) relative to values in placebo-pelleted controls. In addition, adrenal hypertrophy was observed in the morphine-pelleted shams (50% increase in adrenal weight relative to placebo. The magnitude of splenic and thymic atrophy was reduced by about 50% in adrenalectomized morphine-pelleted mice (17% and 22% reductions, respectively) compared to that in adrenalectomized mice implanted with placebo pellets. Lymphocyte proliferative responses to the T-cell mitogen Concanavalin-A and the B-cell mitogen bacterial lipopolysaccharide were also significantly reduced in the morphine-pelleted sham mice. Morphine-induced suppression of Concanavalin-A- or lipopolysaccharide-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation was absent in adrenalectomized mice. Effects similar to adrenalectomy (e.g. lessening of magnitude of morphine-induced suppression of lymphoid organ weight and lymphocyte proliferation) were found in morphine-pelleted mice given the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU-486 at a dose of 10 mg/kg, twice daily. These studies imply that morphine-induced immunosuppression is at least in part mediated by the increase in serum corticosterone levels after implantation of the morphine pellet.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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