Brink TS, Khasabov SG, Fliss PM, Simone DA (2009) Ablation of NK-1 expressing neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla attenuates inflammatory hyperalgesia. Neuroscience 2009 Abstracts 361.5/BB31. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, IL.
Summary: Substance P (SP) is a neuropeptide synthesized by many nociceptive primary sensory neurons and is released into the spinal cord following noxious stimulation where it binds to neurokinin-1 (NK-1) receptors, mostly located on ascending spinal neurons. Spinal NK-1 receptors are involved in the development of hyperalgesia and central sensitization. NK-1 expressing neurons are also present in the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM), a brainstem area involved in descending modulation of nociceptive transmission in the spinal cord. ON cells in the RVM are involved in facilitation of nociceptive transmission and their activity may be modulated by SP. SP injected into the RVM excites ON cells through NK-1 receptors, and NK-1 receptor antagonists into the RVM attenuate hyperalgesia produced by capsaicin. Here, we studied the role of RVM NK-1 positive neurons in modulating hyperalgesia following acute (intraplantar capsaicin injection) or sustained (complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) in the hindpaw) inflammation. We used the ribosomal toxin saporin (SAP) conjugated to a stable agonist of SP (SSP) to selectively ablate RVM cells that possess NK-1 receptors. In male Sprague-Dawley rats, withdrawal responses to noxious heat and mechanical stimuli were obtained using the Hargreaves method and a 15 g von Frey monofilament applied to the plantar hindpaw, respectively. Rats were treated with either the SSP-SAP toxin (0.5 µg/0.5 µl) or blank-SAP, and were tested 10-24 days after injection, when NK-1 expressing RVM neurons are ablated. In control rats, injection of capsaicin (10 µl of 0.1%) produced a 63% decrease in withdrawal latency to heat and an increase in withdrawal response frequency evoked by the monofilament from 16% up to 87%. However, SSP-SAP attenuated capsaicin-evoked hyperalgesia to heat (15% decrease in withdrawal latency) and mechanical (increase to 44% withdrawal frequency) stimuli. Elimination of NK-1 positive neurons in the RVM also attenuated the development of hyperalgesia following CFA. Whereas control rats exhibited a 60% decrease in withdrawal latency to heat and an increase in withdrawal frequency the monofilament from 10% up to 78%, withdrawal latency decreased 27% and withdrawal frequency increased to only 46% in rats treated with SSP-SAP. We conclude that neurons in the RVM that contain NK-1 receptors are pronociceptive and contribute to the hyperalgesia produced by capsaicin or CFA.
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