Get access

Opiate Inhibition of Chemokine-Induced Chemotaxis


Address for correspondence: Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, Division of Basic Sciences, National Cancer Institute Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, Bldg. 560, Rm. 21-89A, Frederick, MD 21702-1201. Telephone: 301-846-1551; Fax: 301-846-7042; e-mail:


Abstract: Chemokines consist of a family of 8-16-kDa cytokines that are generated very early in a wide variety of inflammatory responses and attract leukocytes to local sites. At nanomolar concentrations chemokines initiate signal transduction and activate leukocytes through seven transmembrane receptors (STM), but higher micromolar doses result in homologous desensitizing effects. On the basis of reports that opiates have anti-inflammatory effects and also use STM, we have investigated the possibility that they may cross-desensitize the response of leukocytes to chemokines. We have confirmed previous observations that met-enkephalin (MET) is chemotactic for human peripheral blood mono-cytes. Furthermore, we observed that preincubation of monocytes or neutrophils with MET or morphine prevented their subsequent chemotaxis in response to chemokines (MIP1α or IL-8). However, MET did not inhibit the chemotactic response of PMN to NAP-2, a homologous chemokine that is less potent than IL-8 but cannot be desensitized. The inhibitory effect of opiates on chemokine-induced chemotaxis was antagonized by naloxone. Since MIP-1α and IL-8, unlike NAP-2, have the capacity to desensitize leukocytes, it is possible that opiates, by desensitizing some chemokine responses, can suppress inflammatory reactions.