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Pain. 2001 Feb 1;90(1-2):97-103.

Role of central and peripheral tachykinin NK1 receptors in capsaicin-induced pain and hyperalgesia in mice.

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Department of Physiology, University of Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, E-28871, Madrid, Spain.


Substance P and its receptor (NK1) are thought to play an important role in pain and hyperalgesia. Here we have further examined this role by comparing the behavioural responses to intradermal capsaicin of mutant mice with a disruption of the NK1 receptor (NK1 KO) and wild-type (WT) mice. We have also evaluated the contribution of peripheral NK1 receptors to capsaicin-evoked behaviour by selective blockade of peripheral NK1 receptors in WT mice using a non-brain penetrant NK1 receptor antagonist. Injection of 6 microg capsaicin into the heel evoked paw licking with the same latency in WT and KO mice, but a significantly longer duration in WT mice. A higher dose (30 microg) evoked a similar duration of licking in both groups. There were no differences in mechanical sensitivity tested with von Frey hairs between WT and KO mice before capsaicin. Both capsaicin doses resulted in pronounced increases in responses to von Frey hairs (hyperalgesia) and novel responses to cotton wisps (allodynia) applied to the digits of the injected paw in WT mice, but no significant changes from baseline in KO mice. Selective blockade of peripheral NK1 receptors in WT mice resulted in a complete inhibition of capsaicin-evoked plasma extravasation, but the mechanical hyperalgesia induced by 30 microg capsaicin intraplantar was still significantly greater than that seen in KO mice. We conclude that the response to intradermal capsaicin is still present but abbreviated in mice lacking NK1 receptors, such that secondary hyperalgesia is not observed even after a high dose. Further, the lack of secondary hyperalgesia in NK1 KO mice is largely due to the loss of central rather than peripheral NK1 receptors. The phenotype of the NK1 KO mice is consistent with a loss of function of mechanically-insensitive nociceptors, and thus we propose that substance P may be expressed by this group of primary sensory neurones and required for their function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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