Morphine withdrawal contributes to Th cell differentiation by biasing cells toward the Th2 lineage

Jennifer Kelschenbach, Roderick A Barke, Sabita Roy

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27 Scopus citations


The consequences that drug withdrawal has on immune functioning has only recently been appreciated; however, given the wide variety of use and abuse of opiate analgesics, understanding the decrements to immune function that withdrawal from these drugs causes is of crucial importance. In previous work, we have demonstrated that morphine treatment contributes to immunosuppression by polarizing Th cells toward the Th2 lineage. In the current study, it was hypothesized that morphine withdrawal would result in Th2 differentiation and subsequent immune dysfunction. To address this hypothesis, mice were chronically treated with morphine for 72 h followed by a 24-h withdrawal period. It was determined that 24-h morphine withdrawal resulted in a decrease in IFN-γ the Th1 signature cytokine, whereas the Th2 cytokine, IL-4, was increased. In addition, Western blot and EMSA experiments revealed that morphine withdrawal-induced Th2 differentiation was mediated through the classical Th2 transcription factors Stat-6 and GATA-3. In addition, the consequence of morphine withdrawal in the presence of an immune stimulation was also examined by treating mice in vivo with LPS before morphine withdrawal. Following withdrawal, it was found that the Th1-polarizing cytokine IL-12 was significantly decreased, providing further support for the observation that withdrawal results in Th2 differentiation by possibly impacting the generation of an appropriate innate immune response which directs subsequent adaptive Th1/Th2 responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2655-2665
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2005


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