Effects of a Cannabinoid Agonist on Spinal Nociceptive Neurons in a Rodent Model of Neuropathic Pain

Cheng Liu, J. Michael Walker


The effects of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55,212–2 on heat-evoked firing of spinal wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons were examined in a rodent model of neuropathic pain. Fifty-eight WDR neurons (1 cell/animal) were recorded from the ipsilateral spinal dorsal horns of rats with chronic constriction injury (CCI) and sham-operated controls. Relative to sham-operated controls, neurons recorded in CCI rats showed elevations in spontaneous firing, noxious heat-evoked responses, and afterdischarge firing as well as increases in receptive field size. WIN 55,212–2 (0.0625, 0.125, and 0.25 mg/kg, intravenous) dose-dependently suppressed heat-evoked activity and decreased the receptive field areas of dorsal horn WDR neurons in both nerve injured and control rats with a greater inhibition in CCI rats. At the dose of 0.125 mg/kg iv, WIN 55,212–2 reversed the hyperalgesia produced by nerve injury. The effect of intravenous administration of WIN 55,212–2 appears to be centrally mediated because administration of the drug directly to the ligated nerve did not suppress the heat-evoked neuronal activity in CCI rats. Pretreatment with the cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonists SR141716A or AM251, but not the CB2 antagonist SR144528, blocked the effects. These results provide a neural basis for reports of potent suppression by cannabinoids of the abnormal sensory responses that result from nerve injury.

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