The neuropeptides beta-endorphin and met-enkephalin are potent analgesics and have a broad spectrum of biologic activities including the recently described alterations of lymphocyte proliferation and antibody production. The current study demonstrates that beta-endorphin and met-enkephalin stimulate human mononuclear cell chemotaxis, as measured by the in vitro leading front assay for migration. The response to both beta-endorphin and met-enkephalin was bimodal, with peak activities occurring at 10(-12) M and 10(-8) M. The distance migrated in response to optimal concentrations of beta-endorphin or met-enkephalin was approximately 80% of that obtained with 10(-8) M formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (f-MLP) and was blocked by prior incubation with 10(-8) M naloxone. Removal of glass adherent cells resulted in a loss of the response to beta-endorphin. Quantitation of the number of cells responding to beta-endorphin showed that only about 50% as many cells responded to beta-endorphin as compared with f-MLP. Human neutrophils showed some migration in response to beta-endorphin and met-enkephalin, although the average optimal migration was less than 30% of that observed with 10(-8) M f-MLP. Studies of the in vivo infusion of beta-endorphin into the cerebral ventricle of the rat resulted in the immigration of macrophage-like cells and are consistent with the in vitro evidence for a chemotactic effect of beta-endorphin.

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