Morphine induces changes in the gut microbiome and metabolome in a morphine dependence model

Fuyuan Wang, Jingjing Meng, Li Zhang, Tim Johnson, Chi Chen, Sabita Roy

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154 Scopus citations


Opioid analgesics are frequently prescribed in the United States and worldwide. However, serious comorbidities, such as dependence, tolerance, immunosuppression and gastrointestinal disorders limit their long-term use. In the current study, a morphine-murine model was used to investigate the role of the gut microbiome and metabolome as a potential mechanism contributing to the negative consequences associated with opioid use. Results reveal a significant shift in the gut microbiome and metabolome within one day following morphine treatment compared to that observed after placebo. Morphine-induced gut microbial dysbiosis exhibited distinct characteristic signatures, including significant increase in communities associated with pathogenic function, decrease in communities associated with stress tolerance and significant impairment in bile acids and morphine-3-glucuronide/morphine biotransformation in the gut. Moreover, expansion of Enterococcus faecalis was strongly correlated with gut dysbiosis following morphine treatment, and alterations in deoxycholic acid (DCA) and phosphatidylethanolamines (PEs) were associated with opioid-induced metabolomic changes. Collectively, these results indicate that morphine induced distinct alterations in the gut microbiome and metabolome, contributing to negative consequences associated with opioid use. Therapeutics directed at maintaining microbiome homeostasis during opioid use may reduce the comorbidities associated with opioid use for pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3596
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the NIH grants R01 DA043252, R01 DA037843, R01 DA044582, to SR. The funding agencies had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


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