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Life Sci. 1987 Oct 5;41(14):1731-8.

Immunosuppressive effects of chronic morphine treatment in mice.

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Department of Medical Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C. 20307.


In this report we describe the immunomodulatory effects of subcutaneous morphine pellets in mice, a model commonly used in the study of opiate tolerance and dependence. Mice given a single 75 mg morphine pellet displayed marked atrophy and reduced cellularity of the spleen and thymus, and an attenuated lymphocyte proliferative response to T- and B-cell mitogens (concanavalin A and bacterial lipopolysaccharide, respectively). These immunosuppressive effects were observed 72 hr following implantation of the pellet, a time point by which the mice also had developed tolerance to the antinociceptive effect of the pellet. Splenic and thymic atrophy with reduced mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferative responses and opiate tolerance were also apparent in mice subjected to a multiple pellet implantation schedule. However, implantation of a pellet containing 37.5 mg morphine did not suppress mitogen-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation, which was slightly elevated in this group. These findings concur with other observations suggesting immunosuppression with morphine tolerance. Furthermore, we suggest that chronic morphine treatment acts as a pharmacologic stressor that mimics behavioral stress.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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