Effects of remifentanil on human C20 microglial pro-inflammatory activation

N. Cappoli, P. Aceto, E. Tabolacci, D. Mezzogori, L. Sollazzi, P. Navarra, C. Dello Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Remifentanil (RF) is a potent short-acting μ-opioid receptor agonist. Although preferred for its unique pharmacokinetics, the clinical use may be limited by hyperalgesia. Preclinical studies have shown a potential role of microglia on the development of hyperalgesia, with limited and conflicting evidence on RF. Considering the role of microglia in the initiation and maintenance of brain inflammation and their different responses among species, we aimed at characterizing RF effects on human adult microglia in vitro. MATERIALS AND METHODS: RF was tested at clinically relevant concentrations on the human microglial C20 cell line. Expression and release of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were assessed under basal and inflammatory conditions. RESULTS: The expression and secretion of IL-6 significantly increased in C20 cells in response to pro-inflammatory cytokines. RF did not modify this response neither under basal nor under inflammatory conditions. No toxicity due to RF was detected. The drug displayed a modest stimulatory effect on the production of BDNF. CONCLUSIONS: Although RF does not exert direct pro-inflammatory actions on human adult microglia, its effects on BDNF, a crucial mediator of pain transmission, suggest a possible role on neuroinflammation and pain perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5268-5274
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Brain derived neurotrophic factor
  • Human microglia
  • Interleukin-6
  • Molecular biomarkers
  • Opioid-induced hyperalgesia
  • Pharmaco-therapy
  • Remifentanil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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