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The present study examines the hypothesis that morphine exposure alters newborn brain vascular endothelial cell production of endothelin (ET)-1, as well as the mRNA expression of its receptors. Newborn piglet vascular endothelial cells were treated with morphine (100 ng/mL media), naloxone (100 ng/mL media), or drug-free media (control) for 6, 24, 48, and 96 h. Media was analyzed for ET-1 and big ET-1 levels and the cells were assessed for ETA and ETB receptor mRNA expression. Morphine exposure progressively increased ET-1 production from 6 to 96 h with concurrent reductions in big ET-1 levels starting at 24 h to almost undetectable levels by 96 h. Whereas ETA receptor mRNA expression increased 2-fold at 6 h and 4-fold at 96 h, ETB receptor mRNA expression remained unchanged. Naloxone exposure caused significant decreases in ET-1 levels, whereas an opposite effect was noted in big ET-1 levels, which increased from 6 through 96 h. Naloxone caused a progressive decrease in ETA receptor mRNA expression at 6 h through 96 h and a 2-fold increase in ETB receptor mRNA expression at 48 and 96 h. Increased ET-1 and its receptors in response to morphine may suggest altered cerebrovascular perfusion and brain metabolism in the immature piglet brain.

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