Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 359–367 | Cite as

Inducible Expression of Functional Mu Opioid Receptors in Murine Dendritic Cells

  • Zheng-Hong Li
  • Niansheng Chu
  • Li-Dong Shan
  • Shan Gong
  • Qi-Zhang Yin
  • Xing-Hong Jiang
Original Article


Opioids are known to exert direct effects on the immune system, and the expression of functional opioid receptors has been reported on several immune cell types. Dendritic cells (DCs) are important inducers and regulators of immune responses. In this study, we investigated whether murine dendritic cells express functional mu opioid receptors (MOR). RT-PCR analysis and double immunofluorescence staining revealed the expression of MOR in activated murine dendritic cells. We also studied the dynamic expression of MOR messenger RNA in murine dendritic cells in response to different Toll-like receptor ligands. Functionally, treatment of DCs with endomorphin 1 (EM1), a specific agonist of MOR, can inhibit the forskolin-induced formation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate level in activated DCs. Moreover, EM1 treatment resulted in less activation of p38 MAPK and more activation of ERK signaling in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated DCs. Consistently, treatment of DCs with EM1 altered cytokine production by increasing IL-10 and decreasing IL-12 and IL-23. Our results suggest that MOR is inducibly expressed on activated DCs and functionally mediates EM1-induced effects on DCs. Thus, dendritic cells might be involved in crosstalk between the neuroendocrine and the immune system.


endomorphin 1 mu receptor dendritic cells p38 MAPK ERK 



endomorphin 1


endomorphin 2


mu opioid receptors


dendritic cells


central nervous system


antigen presenting cells



We thank Katherine Regan for editorial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zheng-Hong Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Niansheng Chu
    • 4
  • Li-Dong Shan
    • 1
  • Shan Gong
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qi-Zhang Yin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xing-Hong Jiang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology, School of MedicineSoochow UniversitySuzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Laboratory of Aging and Nervous Diseases, School of MedicineSoochow UniversitySuzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of PhysiologyBengbu Medical CollegeBengbuPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Department of Pathbiology, School of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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