Opioid growth factor-opioid growth factor receptor axis is a physiological determinant of cell proliferation in diverse human cancers

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2009 Oct;297(4):R1154-61. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00414.2009. Epub 2009 Aug 12.


The opioid growth factor (OGF) regulates cell proliferation of human cancer cells through the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitory pathway, with mediation of this action by the OGF receptor (OGFr). The ubiquity of the OGF-OGFr axis in human cancer is unknown. We used 31 human cancer cell lines, representative of more than 90% of neoplasias occurring in humans, and found that OGF and OGFr were detected in the cytoplasm and nucleus by immunohistochemistry. The addition of OGF to cultures depressed cell number up to 41%, whereas naltrexone (NTX) increased cell proliferation by up to 44%, a total of 85% in the modulating capacity for the OGF-OGFr axis. Neutralization of OGF by specific antibodies led to a marked increase in cell number. Knockdown of OGFr by OGFr-siRNA resulted in a significant increase in the number of cells, even in the face of the addition of exogenous OGF. The cultures to which NTX was added and subjected to OGFr-siRNA were similar to those with OGF-siRNA alone. The OGF-OGFr axis, a physiological determinant of cell-proliferative activity, is a ubiquitous feature of human cancer cells. The identification of this native biological system in neoplasia may be important in understanding the pathophysiology of neoplasia, and in designing treatment modalities that utilize the body's own chemistry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation* / drug effects
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Opioid / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Opioid
  • methionine-enkephalin receptor
  • Enkephalin, Methionine
  • Naltrexone