Morphine promotes the growth of HIV-1 in human peripheral blood mononuclear cell cocultures

P. K. Peterson, B. M. Sharp, G. Gekker, P. S. Portoghese, K. Sannerud, H. H. Balfour

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240 Scopus citations


Because morphine has been shown to alter the function of human T lymphocytes and monocytes, we postulated that morphine would promote the growth of HIV-1 in these cells. To test this hypothesis, a coculture assay was used consisting of phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from normal donors and PBMC which had been infected with a viral isolate from an asymptomatic patient, HIV-1AT. The growth of HIV-1AT, as reflected by the concentration of p24 antigen in coculture supernatants, was markedly increased in cocultures that contained morphine. A bell-shaped dose-response curve was observed with three- to fourfold increased growth at a morphine concentration of 10-12 M. Augmentation of HIV-1AT growth by morphine required an interaction with the PHA-activated donor PBMC. Furthermore, potentiation of HIV-1AT growth by morphine was stereospecific and was antagonized by naloxone and β-funaltrexamine indicating involvement of an opiate receptor mechanism. These findings provide an additional explanation of how opiates could act as a cofactor in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 in intravenous drug users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)869-873
Number of pages5
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1990


  • HIV-1
  • Intravenous drug users
  • Morphine
  • Opiates
  • Peripheral blood mononuclear cells


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