Systems biology analyses reveal enhanced chronic morphine distortion of gut-brain interrelationships in simian human immunodeficiency virus infected rhesus macaques

Omalla A. Olwenyi, Samuel D. Johnson, Mehdi Bidokhti, Vandana Thakur, Kabita Pandey, Michellie Thurman, Arpan Acharya, Srijayaprakash Uppada, Shannon Callen, Luis Giavedoni, Udaykumar Ranga, Shilpa J. Buch, Siddappa N. Byrareddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Commonly used opioids, such as morphine have been implicated in augmented SIV/HIV persistence within the central nervous system (CNS). However, the extent of myeloid cell polarization and viral persistence in different brain regions remains unclear. Additionally, the additive effects of morphine on SIV/HIV dysregulation of gut-brain crosstalk remain underexplored. Therefore, studies focused on understanding how drugs of abuse such as morphine affect immune dynamics, viral persistence and gut-brain interrelationships are warranted. Materials and methods: For a total of 9 weeks, rhesus macaques were ramped-up, and twice daily injections of either morphine (n = 4) or saline (n = 4) administered. This was later followed with infection with SHIVAD8EO variants. At necropsy, mononuclear cells were isolated from diverse brain [frontal lobe, cerebellum, medulla, putamen, hippocampus (HIP) and subventricular zone (SVZ)] and gut [lamina propria (LP) and muscularis (MUSC) of ascending colon, duodenum, and ileum] regions. Multiparametric flow cytometry was used to were profile for myeloid cell polarity/activation and results corroborated with indirect immunofluorescence assays. Simian human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) DNA levels were measured with aid of the digital droplet polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. Luminex assays were then used to evaluate soluble plasma/CSF biomarker levels. Finally, changes in the fecal microbiome were evaluated using 16S rRNA on the Illumina NovaSeq platform. Results: Flow Cytometry-based semi-supervised analysis revealed that morphine exposure led to exacerbated M1 (CD14/CD16)/M2 (CD163/CD206) polarization in activated microglia that spanned across diverse brain regions. This was accompanied by elevated SHIV DNA within the sites of neurogenesis–HIP and SVZ. HIP/SVZ CD16+ activated microglia positively correlated with SHIV DNA levels in the brain (r = 0.548, p = 0.042). Simultaneously, morphine dependence depleted butyrate-producing bacteria, including Ruminococcus (p = 0.05), Lachnospira (p = 0.068) genera and Roseburia_sp_831b (p = 0.068). Finally, morphine also altered the regulation of CNS inflammation by reducing the levels of IL1 Receptor antagonist (IL1Ra). Conclusion: These findings are suggestive that morphine promotes CNS inflammation by altering receptor modulation, increasing myeloid brain activation, distorting gut-brain crosstalk, and causing selective enhancement of SHIV persistence in sites of neurogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1001544
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - Oct 13 2022


  • CNS
  • SHIV
  • gut-brain axis
  • microbiome
  • microglia
  • morphine
  • neurogenesis
  • viral reservoirs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Systems biology analyses reveal enhanced chronic morphine distortion of gut-brain interrelationships in simian human immunodeficiency virus infected rhesus macaques'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this