Suppression of human peripheral blood mononuclear cell function by methadone and morphine

Phillip K. Peterson, Genya Gekker, Charles Brummitt, Paul R Pentel, Milton Bullock, Margaret Simpson, John Hitt, Burt Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Recent studies have shown that in vitro exposure of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) to morphine results in suppressed respiratory-burst activity of monocytes and impaired interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production by lymphocytes. To investigate the potential in vivo effect of an opiate on these cell functions, PBMC were obtained from patients maintained on methadone. These freshly isolated mononuclear cells had a significantly impaired capacity to generate superoxide anion (O2) in response to phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), while production of IFN-γ by concanavalin A-stimulated cells was intact. After cell culture for 48 h, the defective O2 generating capacity was sustained. Also, culturing PBMC from healthy controls in the presence of methadone or morphine at concentrations as low as 10-12 M caused significant suppression of PMA-stimulated O2 release. Because reactive oxygen intermediates produced by PBMC may participate in host defense against opportunistic pathogens in AIDS, these results underscore the need for investigations of the biological consequences of opiate-mediated immunosuppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-487
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1989

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received for publication 18 July 1988 and in revised form 11 October 1988. This work was supported in part by grants DA-04381 and DA-04196 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We thank Rosemary Pellegrini for manuscript preparation. Please address requests for reprints to Dr. Phillip K. Peterson, Department of Medicine. Hennepin County Medical Center. 701 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415.


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