Differential effects of two analgesic drugs, morphine chlorhydrate and acetylsalicylic acid, on thalamic mast cell numbers in rat

J Neuroimmunol. 2005 Dec;169(1-2):106-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2005.08.008. Epub 2005 Sep 16.


Thalamic mast cells (TMCs), the only immunocytes known to infiltrate the brain in physiological conditions, respond to pharmacological agents including sumatriptan - a serotonergic anti-migraine agent - that increases their number. We analysed the effects of two other main analgesics: morphine chlorhydrate, a micro opioid agonist, and acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. All three drugs have specific modes of action, and morphine and ASA, unlike sumatriptan, are also known to interact with peripheral mast cells. Only ASA was effective in promoting TMC number decrease. TMCs, unlike other mast cells, do not express cyclooxygenase (COX) - the key enzyme in the production of prostanoids and the main site of action of ASA - thus dismissing a direct local cellular COX-mediated action. Direct TMC COX-independent mechanisms or effects mediated via distant populations of COX-positive cells such as platelets, leptomeningeal, endothelial and peripheral mast cells are thus probable. ASA, morphine and sumatriptan have distinct TMC effects, suggesting that the TMC number variations they induce are more likely to derive from systemic vasoactive actions than from pharmacological mechanisms devoted to pain relief.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / classification
  • Analgesics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Aspirin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / drug effects*
  • Morphine / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thalamus / cytology*
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics
  • Morphine
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Aspirin