Morphine induces changes in the gut microbiome and metabolome in a morphine dependence model.
Opioid analgesics are frequently prescribed in the United States and worldwide. However, serious comorbidities, such as dependence, tolerance, immunosuppression and gastrointestinal disorders limit their long-term use. In the current study, a morphine-murine model was used to investigate the role of the gut microbiome and metabolome as a potential mechanism contributing to the negative consequences associated with opioid use. Results reveal a significant shift in the gut microbiome and metabolome within one day following morphine treatment compared to that observed after placebo. Morphine-induced gut microbial dysbiosis exhibited distinct characteristic signatures, including significant increase in communities associated with pathogenic function, decrease in communities associated with stress tolerance and significant impairment in bile acids and morphine-3-glucuronide/morphine biotransformation in the gut. Moreover, expansion of Enterococcus faecalis was strongly correlated with gut dysbiosis following morphine treatment, and alterations in deoxycholic acid (DCA) and phosphatidylethanolamines (PEs) were associated with opioid-induced metabolomic changes. Collectively, these results indicate that morphine induced distinct alterations in the gut microbiome and metabolome, contributing to negative consequences associated with opioid use. Therapeutics directed at maintaining microbiome homeostasis during opioid use may reduce the comorbidities associated with opioid use for pain management.