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Open Access Research

Mechanically-evoked C-fiber activity in painful alcohol and AIDS therapy neuropathy in the rat

Xiaojie Chen and Jon D Levine*

Author Affiliations

Departments of Anatomy, Medicine and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Division of Neuroscience, NIH Pain Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

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Molecular Pain 2007, 3:5  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-3-5

Published: 23 February 2007

Abstract

While altered activities in sensory neurons were noticed in neuropathic pain, caused by highly diverse insults to the peripheral nervous system, such as diabetes, alcohol ingestion, cancer chemotherapy and drugs used to treat AIDS, other infections and autoimmune diseases, as well as trauma, our understanding of how these various peripheral neuropathies manifest as altered neuronal activity is still rudimentary. The recent development of models of several of those neuropathies has, however, now made it possible to address their impact on primary afferent nociceptor function. We compared changes in mechanically-evoked C-fiber activity, in models of painful peripheral neuropathy induced by drinking ethanol (alcohol) or administering 2',3'-dideoxycytidine (ddC), a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor for AIDS therapy, two co-morbid conditions in which pain is thought to be mediated by different second messenger signaling pathways. In C-fiber afferents, ddC decreased conduction velocity. In contrast, alcohol but not ddC caused enhanced response to mechanical stimulation (i.e., decrease in threshold and increase in response to sustained threshold and supra-threshold stimulation) and changes in pattern of evoked activity (interspike interval and action potential variability analyses). These marked differences in primary afferent nociceptor function, in two different forms of neuropathy that produce mechanical hyperalgesia of similar magnitude, suggest that optimal treatment of neuropathic pain may differ depending on the nature of the causative insult to the peripheral nervous system, and emphasize the value of studying co-morbid conditions that produce painful peripheral neuropathy by different mechanisms.