The opioid antagonist, β-funaltrexamine, inhibits NF-κB signaling and chemokine expression in human astrocytes and in mice

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Abstract Opioid-immune crosstalk occurs when opioid drugs alter the activity of the immune system. In this study, the opioid antagonist β-funaltrexamine (β-FNA) decreases the expression and release of an inflammatory chemokine, interferon-γ inducible protein-10 (CXCL10) from normal human astrocytes stimulated by interleukin 1β (IL-1β). β-FNA decreased CXCL10 by an unknown action that did not involve the mu opioid receptor (MOR). As IL-1β acts through its receptor to activate NF-κB/MAPK signaling pathways which leads to CXCL10 expression and release, key steps in the IL-1β signaling pathways were examined following β-FNA treatment. IL-1β-induced activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (p38 MAPK) was inhibited by β-FNA as shown by decreased p38 MAPK phosphorylation in treated cells. β-FNA also decreased the levels of activated subunits of NF-κB (p50 and p65) in treated astrocytes. The impact of β-FNA was also observed in proteins that act to negatively regulate NF-κB signaling. IL-1β upregulated the expression of A20, a ubiquitin (Ub)-editing enzyme that dampens NF-κB signaling by altering ubiquination patterns on IL-1 receptor second messengers, and the increase in A20 was significantly inhibited by β-FNA treatment. Inhibition of the Ub-activating enzyme E1 by the inhibitor PYR41 also decreased CXCL10 release, like β-FNA, and concurrent treatment with both PYR41 and β-FNA inhibited CXCL10 more than did either agent alone. In mice, lipopolysaccharide-induced CXCL10 expression in the brain was inhibited by treatment with β-FNA. These findings suggest that β-FNA exerts an anti-inflammatory action in vitro and in vivo that is MOR-independent and possibly due to the alkylating ability of β-FNA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70004
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015



  • Astrocyte
  • Chemokine
  • Cytokine
  • IL-1β
  • NF-κB
  • Opioid
  • β-FNA

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