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Inflammation and hyperalgesia in rats neonatally treated with capsaicin: effects on two classes of nociceptive neurons in the superficial dorsal horn.
Neurobiology and Anesthesiology Branch, National Institute of Dental Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
To address the mechanisms of hyperalgesia and dorsal horn plasticity following peripheral tissue inflammation, the effects of adjuvant-induced inflammation of the rat hindpaw on behavioral nociception and nociceptive neuronal activity in the superficial dorsal horn were examined in neonatally capsaicin-treated rats 6-8 weeks of age. Capsaicin treatment resulted in an 82% loss of unmyelinated fibers in L5 dorsal roots, a dramatic reduction of substance P-like immunoreactivity in the spinal cord, and a significant decrease in the percentage of dorsal horn nociceptive neurons that responded to C-fiber stimulation and noxious heating of the skin. The thermal nociceptive threshold was significantly increased in capsaicin-treated rats, but behavioral hyperalgesia to thermal stimuli still developed in response to inflammation. Following inflammation, there was a significant decrease in mechanical threshold and an increase in response duration to mechanical stimuli in both vehicle- and capsaicin-treated rats, suggesting that a state of mechanical hyperalgesia was also induced. The capsaicin treatment appears to have differential effects on nociceptive specific (NS) and wide-dynamic-range (WDR) neurons in inflamed rats. Expansion of the receptive fields of nociceptive neurons, a measure of the effect of inflammation-induced CNS plasticity, was less extensive for NS than for WDR neurons in capsaicin-treated rats. Compared to vehicle-treated rats, a smaller population of NS neurons, but a similar percentage of WDR neurons, had background activity in inflamed capsaicin-treated rats. C-fiber strength electrical stimulation of the sciatic nerve produced expansion of the receptive fields in a greater portion of NS neurons (53%, P < 0.05) in capsaicin- than in vehicle-treated rats (32%). There was no difference in stimulation-induced expansion of the receptive fields for WDR neurons between vehicle- or capsaicin-treated rats. An N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist, MK-801, attenuated the behavioral hyperalgesia and reduced the receptive field size of dorsal horn neurons in inflamed capsaicin- and vehicle-treated rats. The data suggest that while capsaicin-sensitive primary afferents may be involved in neuronal plasticity induced by peripheral tissue inflammation, changes in the capsaicin-insensitive WDR and NS populations are sufficient to produce thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia after the loss of capsaicin-sensitive primary afferents.
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