The periaqueductal gray matter mediates opiate-induced immunosuppression

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Science  14 Jul 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4914, pp. 188-190
DOI: 10.1126/science.2749256


The periaqueductal gray matter of the mesencephalon (PAG) subserves a variety of diverse autonomic functions and also appears to be a site for opiate action in the induction of immunosuppression. Microinjections of morphine into the PAG, but not into other opiate receptor-containing neuroanatomical sites, result in a rapid suppression of natural killer (NK) cell activity. The NK cell suppression can be blocked by prior peripheral administration of the opiate antagonist naltrexone. These findings demonstrate that certain central actions of opiates that produce changes in NK cell function are mediated through opiate receptors in the PAG and identify a brain region involved in opiate regulation of immune function.

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