, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 609-617

Morphine Induces Splenocyte Apoptosis and Enhanced mRNA Expression of Cathepsin-B

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Abstract

Morphine has been demonstrated to modulate immune function. We studied whether morphine modulates apoptosis of splenocytes. Splenocytes were isolated from control and morphine treated rats. Splenocytes isolated from morphine treated rats showed increased percentage (P < 0.001) of apoptosis when compared to splenocytes isolated from untreated rats (control, 4.7 ± 1.0% apoptotic splenocytes/field vs. morphine, 47.8 ± 3.4% apoptotic splenocytes/field). These results were further confirmed by gel electrophoresis as well as by end-labeling DNA of splenocytes isolated from control and morphine treated rats. Splenocytes from morphine treated rats showed a classical ladder pattern with integer multiples of 180 base pairs. Splenocytes from morphine treated rats also showed increased mRNA expression of cathepsin-B, a gene associated with active cell death. These results suggest that morphine may also be modulating immune function by enhancing apoptosis of splenocytes.