Modulation of immune status by a conditioned aversive stimulus: Evidence for the involvement of endogenous opioids

Donald T. Lysle, Linda J. Luecken, Kimberly A. Maslonek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Recent research has shown that presentations of an unconditioned aversive stimulus, such as electric shock, can induce alterations of immune function in rats. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that an innocuous stimulus paired with an unconditioned aversive stimulus can acquire immunomodulatory properties. Research has suggested that endogenous opioid activity is responsible for the alterations of immune function by unconditioned aversive stimulation. The present study evaluated the effect of administration of opiate receptor antagonists, naltrexone and N-methylnaltrexone, on the immunomodulatory effect of a conditioned stimulus (CS) that had been paired with electric footshock. Naltrexone dose-dependently attenuated the CS-induced suppression of the in vitro proliferative response of splenic lymphocytes to concanavalin A, lipopolysaccharide, and a combination of ionomycin and phorbol myristate acetate. Naltrexone also attenuated the CS-induced reduction in natural-killer cell activity. In contrast, the quaternary form of naltrexone, N-methylnaltrexone, did not significantly attenuate the CS-induced immunomodulatory effects. Collectively, these findings indicate that endogenous opioid activity is involved in CS-induced alterations of immune function. Moreover, the lack of effectiveness of N-methylnaltrexone in attenuating the CS-induced immunomodulatory effect suggests that the opioid receptors involved in the effect are located in the central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Behavior and Immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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