Phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PNMT) activity and tissue catecholamine content were examined after 13 days morphine treatment. Prolonged morphine treatment did not alter the PNMT activity in brain regions (A1/C1 and A2/C2 cell groups, medial basal hypothalamus, median eminence). However, the enzyme activity and the adrenaline content were increased in the adrenal medulla of male rats. In parallel, morphine treatment induced adrenal hypertrophy. In female or hypophysectomized male animals the chronic morphine treatment had no effect on adrenal weight but evoked the increase of PNMT activity. It is concluded that the morphine-induced increased adrenaline biosynthesis in the adrenal gland is not fully dependent on the intact pituitary-adrenal axis and may be mediated partly by a neural mechanism (increased splanchnic nerve activity) or by a direct effect of morphine.
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