Morphine-induced delay of normal cell death in the avian ciliary ganglion

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Science  21 Jun 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4706, pp. 1451-1453
DOI: 10.1126/science.2990029


Repeated administration of morphine in increasing doses delayed normal cell death in the ciliary ganglion of the chick embryo; the effect was completely blocked by naloxone. Survival of spinal motoneurons was not affected. Morphine also inhibited potassium-stimulated synthesis of acetylcholine in ganglion cells cultured with muscle, suggesting that morphine can influence neurotransmission. Morphine's effect on cell death may be due to an inhibition of transmission at the neuromuscular junction, but opiates may also directly affect cell death. Although it is now known whether the endogenous opiates in the ciliary ganglion influence neuronal survival during embryogenesis, exogenous opiates can affect normal cell death in the autonomic nervous system.