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Open Access Research

Pharmacological switch in Aβ-fiber stimulation-induced spinal transmission in mice with partial sciatic nerve injury

Misaki Matsumoto, Weijiao Xie, Lin Ma and Hiroshi Ueda*

Author Affiliations

Division of Molecular Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki 852-8521, Japan

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Molecular Pain 2008, 4:25  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-4-25

Published: 11 July 2008

Abstract

Background

We have previously demonstrated that different spinal transmissions are involved in the nociceptive behavior caused by electrical stimulation of Aβ-, Aδ- or C-fibers using a Neurometer® in naïve mice. In this study, we attempted to pharmacologically characterize the alteration in spinal transmission induced by partial sciatic nerve injury in terms of nociceptive behavior and phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (pERK) in the spinal dorsal horn.

Results

Aβ-fiber responses (2000-Hz), which were selectively blocked by the AMPA/kainate antagonist CNQX in naïve mice, were hypersensitized but blocked by the NMDA receptor antagonists MK-801 and AP-5 in injured mice in an electrical stimulation-induced paw withdrawal (EPW) test. Although Aδ-fiber responses (250-Hz) were also hypersensitized by nerve injury, there was no change in the pharmacological characteristics of Aδ-fiber responses through NMDA receptors. On the contrary, C-fiber responses (5-Hz) were hyposensitized by nerve injury. Moreover, Aδ- and C-, but not Aβ-fiber stimulations significantly increased the number of pERK-positive neurons in the superficial spinal dorsal horns of naïve mice, and corresponding antagonists used in the EPW test inhibited this increase. In mice with nerve injury, Aβ- as well as Aδ-fiber stimulations significantly increased the number of pERK-positive neurons in the superficial spinal dorsal horn, whereas C-fiber stimulation decreased this number. The nerve injury-specific pERK increase induced by Aβ-stimulation was inhibited by MK-801 and AP-5, but not by CNQX. However, Aβ- and Aδ-stimulations did not affect the number or size of pERK-positive neurons in the dorsal root ganglion, whereas C-fiber-stimulation selectively decreased the number of pERK-positive neurons.

Conclusion

These results suggest that Aβ-fiber perception is newly transmitted to spinal neurons, which originally receive only Aδ- and C-fiber-mediated pain transmission, through NMDA receptor-mediated mechanisms, in animals with nerve injury. This pharmacological switch in Aβ-fiber spinal transmission could be a mechanism underlying neuropathic allodynia.