Opioid receptors of subtypes delta, kappa, and mu similar to those found in brain cells have been identified in immune cells. The current study demonstrates by competitive polymerase chain reaction the treatment of human lymphocytic cells with morphine resulting in an increased amount of gene expression of mu opioid receptors. Antibodies against the MOR-1, the neuronal mu opioid receptor, were used in Western blot analysis of mu proteins and the results revealed a single band of approximately 50 kDa, the intensity of which was increased by morphine treatment. Similar results of mu opioid receptor activation were observed when monkey lymphocytes were treated with morphine. These studies suggest that in addition to causing an immune effect through communication with the neuroendocrine system, the psychoactive drug morphine may modulate immune functions by acting directly on the mu opioid receptors expressed on lymphocytes.