Low dose naltrexone (LDN) enhances maturation of bone marrow dendritic cells (BMDCs)

Int Immunopharmacol. 2013 Dec;17(4):1084-9. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2013.10.012.


It has been demonstrated previously that immune cell activation and proliferation were sensitive to the effects of naltrexone, a non-peptidic δ-opioid receptor selective antagonist and opioid receptors on BMDCs have been detected [1]. However, there is little prior data published on naltrexone and DCs. Therefore, we hypothesized that LDN could exert modulating effect on BMDCs. In present study, we studied influence of LDN on both phenotypic and functional maturation of BMDCs. Changes of BMDC post-treatment with LDN were evaluated using conventional light microscope and transmission electron microscopy (TEM); flow cytometry(FCM); cytochemistry; acid phosphatase activity(ACP) test; FITC-dextran bio-assay; mixed lymphocytes and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). We have found that LDN enhances maturation of BMDCs as evidenced by 1) up-regulating the expression of MHC II, CD40, CD83, CD80 and CD86 molecules on BMDCs; 2) down-regulating the rates of pinocytosis and phagocytosis accompanied by the results of decreased ACP, and FITC-dextran bio-assay; 3) mounting potential of BMDCs to drive T cell; and 4) inducing secretion of higher levels of IL-12 and TNF-α. It is therefore concluded that LDN can efficiently promote the maturation of BMDCs via precise modulation inside and outside BMDCs. Our study has provided meaningful mode of action on the role of LDN in immunoregulation, and rationale on future application of LDN for enhancing host immunity in cancer therapy and potent use in the design of DC-based vaccines for a number of diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects*
  • Dendritic Cells / physiology
  • Female
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Naltrexone / administration & dosage
  • Naltrexone / pharmacology*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-12
  • Naltrexone