Background: Opioids may have effects on susceptibility to HIV-infection, viral replication and disease progression.
Injecting drug users (IDU), as well as anyone receiving opioids for anesthesia and analgesia may suffer the clinical consequences of such interactions. There is conflicting data between in vitro experiments showing an enhancing effect of opioids on HIV replication and clinical data, mostly showing no such effect. For clarification we studied the effects of the opioids heroin and morphine on HIV replication in cultured CD4-positive T cells at several concentrations and we related the observed effects with the relevant reached plasma concentrations found in IDUs.
Methods: Latently-infected ACH-2 T lymphoblasts were incubated with different concentrations of morphine and heroine. Reactivation of HIV was assessed by intracellular staining of viral Gag p24 protein and subsequent flow
cytometric quantification of p24-positive cells. The influence of the opioid antagonist naloxone and the antioxidants
N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and glutathione (GSH) on HIV reactivation was determined. Cell viability was investigated by
7-AAD staining and flow cytometric quantification.
Results: Morphine and heroine triggered reactivation of HIV replication in ACH-2 cells in a dose-dependent manner at
concentrations above 1 mM (EC50 morphine 2.82 mM; EC50 morphine 1.96 mM). Naloxone did not interfere with
heroine-mediated HIV reactivation, even at high concentrations (1 mM). Opioids also triggered necrotic cell
death at similar concentrations at which HIV reactivation was observed. Both opioid-mediated reactivation of
HIV and opioid-triggered cell death could be inhibited by the antioxidants GSH and NAC.
Conclusions: Opioids reactivate HIV in vitro but at concentrations that are far above the plasma levels of
analgesic regimes or drug concentrations found in IDUs. HIV reactivation was mediated by effects unrelated
to opioid-receptor activation and was tightly linked to the cytotoxic activity of the substances at millimolar
concentrations, suggesting that opioid-mediated reactivation of HIV was due to accompanying effects of cellular
necrosis such as activation of reactive oxygen species and NF-κB.
For the full version of the article click here: The effects of opioids on HIV reactivation in latently-infected T-lymphoblasts