Opioid peptides have been implicated in the regulation of tumor growth and biology; however, little attention has been given to the mechanisms that are involved. In this study we show that physiological concentrations of the endogenous opioid neuropeptide methionine-enkephalin (MET-ENK) and the synthetic enkephalins D-Ala2, Me-Phe4, Gly(ol)5 and D-Ala2, D-Leu5 are stimulants for the in vitro migration of pre-B acute lymphoblastoid leukemia (ALL) cells. Activation of the human pre-B ALL cell lines NALM 6 and LAZ 221 with MET-ENK resulted in both an increase in their migration and an augmentation in the surface expression of the leukemia cell marker CD9. The opiate receptor antagonist naloxone reversed these enkephalin-induced effects on the leukemia cells. When the pre-B ALL cells were preincubated with an anti-CD9 mAb before challenge with MET-ENK their migration to the enkephalin was markedly reduced. These studies show that endogenous and synthetic opioid peptides are stimulants for pre-B ALL cell migration and suggest that CD9 is important in the regulation of leukemia cell motility
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