Pharmacokinetics of morphine and its metabolites in freshwater rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)


E. Don Stevens, Department of Integrative Biology, College of Biological Sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada. E-mail:


In this study, we injected morphine sulfate IP into rainbow trout and measured the concentration of morphine and all potential metabolites in plasma using LC-MS/MS at a series of times after the injection. The pharmacokinetics of morphine were similar to those previously reported for seawater-acclimated rainbow trout, i.e. they were about one order of magnitude slower than in similarly sized mammals. The only metabolite of morphine present in the plasma was morphine-3-β-d-glucuronide (M3G); morphine-6-β-d-glucuronide (M6G) was not detected. M3G gradually increased after the morphine injection, peaked about 2 days later, then gradually decreased. In mammals, M3G plasma levels exceed morphine levels extremely rapidly, i.e. in less than an hour, regardless of dose, route of administration, or species. In trout, it took 2 days for M3G levels to exceed morphine levels. This is the first study of the metabolites of morphine in any ectotherm. We conclude that trout can metabolize morphine, but at a rate much slower than in mammals.