Morphine enhances hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicon expression

Yuan Li, Ting Zhang, Steven D. Douglas, Jian Ping Lai, Wei Dong Xiao, David E Pleasure, Wen Zhe Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Little information is available regarding whether substance abuse enhances hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication and promotes HCV disease progression. We investigated whether morphine alters HCV mRNA expression in HCV replicon-containing liver cells. Morphine significantly increased HCV mRNA expression, an effect which could be abolished by either of the opioid receptor antagonists, naltrexone or β-funaltrexamine. Investigation of the mechanism responsible for this enhancement of HCV replicon expression demonstrated that morphine activated NF-κB promoter and that caffeic acid phenethyl ester, a specific inhibitor of the activation of NF-κB, blocked morphine-activated HCV RNA expression. In addition, morphine compromised the anti-HCV effect of interferon alpha (IFN-α). Our in vitro data indicate that morphine may play an important role as a positive regulator of HCV replication in human hepatic cells and may compromise IFN-α therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1175
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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