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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1999 Feb;288(2):502-8.

Endogenous opioids regulate the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase by splenocytes.

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Experimental and Biological Program, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599-3270, USA.


In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced expression of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) by splenocytes is modulated through the activation of endogenous opioids in the central nervous system. The initial studies determined the parameters of LPS-induced expression of iNOS by splenocytes. Rats were injected with LPS at doses of 0, 1, 10, 100, and 1000 microg/kg, and measures of both iNOS mRNA and protein showed a dose-dependent increase in expression. In a time course study, rats received 100 microg/kg LPS and were killed at 0, 2, 4, 8, and 16 h postinjection. Both iNOS mRNA and protein expression was detectable at the 2-h time point, with peak expression occurring at 8 h. To evaluate the involvement of endogenous opioids, the opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone was administered at 0, 0.1, 1, or 10 mg/kg s.c. in combination with LPS (100 microg/kg), with a second injection of naltrexone at the same dose 4 h after the injection of LPS. Naltrexone induced a pronounced dose-dependent reduction in iNOS mRNA and protein expression by splenocytes. The modulation of iNOS expression occurs via central opioid receptors as intracerebroventricular administration but not peripheral administration of N-methylnaltrexone, the quaternary form of naltrexone that does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier, reduced the expression of iNOS. For all of the manipulations, nitrite/nitrate levels in the plasma showed effects similar to those for iNOS mRNA and protein. Collectively, these findings indicate that central opioid receptors are involved in the in vivo regulation of splenic nitric oxide production.

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