Enteric glial–mediated enhancement of intestinal barrier integrity is compromised by morphine

Brent D. Bauman, Jingjing Meng, Lei Zhang, Amanda Louiselle, Eugene Zheng, Santanu Banerjee, Sabita Roy, Bradley J Segura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background The opioid epidemic is a growing concern, and emerging evidence suggests that morphine use may be associated with sepsis. Enteric glial cells (EGCs) are the most numerous cell type in the enteric nervous system and regulate gastrointestinal function through the production of trophic factors, including glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). We sought to determine the effect of morphine on enteric glia and hypothesized that morphine contributes to EGC dysfunction and increased gut permeability. Materials and methods Rat intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and EGC lines were purchased from ATCC. Immunocytochemistry was used to evaluate the impact of EGCs on IEC barrier proteins and detect the μ-opioid receptor. Co-culture assays were used to determine the effect of EGCs, GDNF, and morphine on barrier integrity. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction and western blotting were performed to determine the impact of morphine in GDNF production. Transepithelial resistance of IEC-6 cell monolayers was measured in the presence of EGC-conditioned media (EGC-CM) and morphine treated EGC-CM using electrical cell impedance sensing. Results EGC-CM enhanced tight junction organization in IECs. IEC barrier integrity was enhanced when co-cultured with unstimulated EGCs or with GDNF alone; this barrier protective effect was lost with morphine-treated EGCs. GDNF RNA and protein expression were decreased by morphine treatment. Transepithelial resistance was decreased in IEC confluent monolayers when exposed to morphine-treated EGC-CM compared with control. Conclusions Morphine compromises intestinal epithelial cell barrier function through a mechanism which appears to involve GDNF. Further studies are warranted to delineate the role of enteric glial cell function in opioid signaling and sepsis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-221
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the University of Minnesota Department of Surgery and the University of Minnesota Medical School. Our research was made possible through the NIH 1K08GM113055-01A1 and American Pediatric Surgical Association Foundation scholar grants (B.J.S), and 1 R01 DA043252-01, R01 DA037843, R01 DA034582, and K05 DA033881 grants (S.R.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Enteric glia
  • Enteric nervous system
  • GDNF
  • Intestinal barrier integrity
  • Morphine
  • Opioids


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