Karagiannis TT, Cleary JP, Gok B, Henderson AJ, Martin NG, Yajima M, Nelson EC, Cheng CS

Single cell transcriptomics reveals opioid usage evokes widespread suppression of antiviral gene program.

Nature communications. 2020-05-26; 11.1: 2611.

Chronic opioid usage not only causes addiction behavior through the central nervous system, but also modulates the peripheral immune system. However, how opioid impacts the immune system is still barely characterized systematically. In order to understand the immune modulatory effect of opioids in an unbiased way, here we perform single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from opioid-dependent individuals and controls to show that chronic opioid usage evokes widespread suppression of antiviral gene program in naive monocytes, as well as in multiple immune cell types upon stimulation with the pathogen component lipopolysaccharide. Furthermore, scRNA-seq reveals the same phenomenon after a short in vitro morphine treatment. These findings indicate that both acute and chronic opioid exposure may be harmful to our immune system by suppressing the antiviral gene program. Our results suggest that further characterization of the immune modulatory effects of opioid is critical to ensure the safety of clinical opioids.

PMID: 32457298

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