Several micro RNAs (miRNAs) have the ability to inhibit HIV replication in target cells. Thus, we investigated the impact of opioids (morphine and heroin), widely abused drugs among people infected with HIV, on the expression of cellular anti-HIV miRNAs in monocytes. We found that morphine-treated monocytes expressed lower levels of cellular anti-HIV miRNAs than untreated cells. In addition, morphine treatment of monocytes compromised type I interferon (IFN)–induced anti-HIV miRNA expression. These findings paralleled the observation that morphine treatment of monocytes enhanced HIV replication. These morphine-mediated actions on the anti-HIV miRNAs and HIV could be antagonized by the opioid receptor antagonists (naltrexone or Cys2, Tyr3, Arg5, Pen7-amide). Furthermore, the in vitro impact of morphine on miRNA expression was confirmed by the in vivo observation that heroin-dependent subjects had significantly lower levels of anti-HIV miRNAs (miRNA-28, 125b, 150, and 382) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells than the healthy subjects. These in vitro and in vivo findings indicate that opioid use impairs intracellular innate anti-HIV mechanism(s) in monocytes, contributing to cell susceptibility to HIV infection
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