Morphine as a drug for stress ulcer prevention and healing in the stomach

Eur J Pharmacol. 2003 Jan 24;460(2-3):177-82. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(02)02922-9.


Morphine pretreatment protects against stress-induced gastric ulceration, however, the exact mechanism is still undefined. Interestingly, the effect of morphine on ulcer healing has not been investigated. In this report, we would like to study these effects in a defined stress ulcer model and to delineate a new implication for morphine to promote stress ulcer healing in rats. Our study showed that cold-restraint stress for 3 h induced hemorrhagic lesions and increased myeloperoxidase activity in the gastric mucosa. Stress also reduced the dimension of layer of periodic acid-Schiff reagent-stained cells in the gastric mucosa by about 50%. Morphine pretreatment (2 or 8 mg/kg, given intraperitoneally) at the time of stress dose-dependently reversed stress-induced gastric ulceration, increase of myeloperoxidase activity and reduction of thickness of mucus-stained cells in the gastric mucosa. Morphine treatment after stress (given at the end of a 3-h stress and also at 3 h thereafter) increased ulcer healing by reducing the ulcer size measured 24 h later. Such action was blocked by naloxone (8 mg/kg) given intraperitoneally 15 min before morphine treatment. Morphine also increased the number of cell proliferation and dimension of layer of cells stained for mucus but not the number of microvessels in the gastric mucosa. Moreover, the number of apoptotic cells was less evidenced in the morphine-treated rats. This study reports for the first time that morphine not only prevents stress ulceration but also promotes healing of stress ulcer through a defined mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blood Vessels / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cold Temperature
  • Gastric Mucosa / blood supply
  • Gastric Mucosa / drug effects
  • Gastric Mucosa / pathology
  • Male
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Naloxone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stomach / drug effects*
  • Stomach / pathology
  • Stomach Ulcer / etiology
  • Stomach Ulcer / prevention & control*
  • Stress, Physiological / complications*
  • Time Factors
  • Wound Healing / drug effects


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Naloxone
  • Morphine