Morphine is a poor inducer of micro-opioid receptor (MOR) internalization, but a potent inducer of cellular tolerance. Here we show that, in contrast to full agonists such as [D-Ala(2)-MePhe(4)-Gly-ol]enkephalin (DAMGO), morphine stimulated a selective phosphorylation of the carboxy-terminal residue 375 (Ser(375)). Ser(375) phosphorylation was sufficient and required for morphine-induced desensitization of MOR. In the presence of full agonists, morphine revealed partial agonistic properties and potently inhibited MOR phosphorylation and internalization. Upon removal of the drug, DAMGO-desensitized receptors were rapidly dephosphorylated. In contrast, morphine-desensitized receptors remained at the plasma membrane in a Ser(375)-phosphorylated state for prolonged periods. Thus, morphine promotes terminal MOR desensitization by inducing a persistent modification of Ser(375).