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J Physiol. 2001 Oct 1;536(Pt 1):101-10.

Nicotine facilitates glycine release in the rat spinal dorsal horn.

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Cellular and System Physiology, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan.


1. Nicotinic effects on glycine release were investigated in slices of lumbar spinal cord using conventional whole-cell recordings. In most of the substantia gelatinosa (SG) neurons tested, nicotine increased the frequency of the glycinergic spontaneous miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs). In a smaller proportion, nicotine evoked not only this same presynaptic response but also a postsynaptic response. 2. Nicotinic facilitation of glycinergic mIPSCs was investigated in mechanically dissociated SG neurons using nystatin-perforated patch recordings. Nicotine (3 x 10(-6) to 10(-5) M) reversibly enhanced the frequency of glycinergic mIPSCs without altering their amplitudes, thus indicating that nicotine facilitates glycine release through a presynaptic mechanism. 3. Choline, a selective alpha7 subunit of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonist, had no effect on the mIPSC frequency while anatoxin A, a broad-spectrum agonist of nAChR, facilitated the mIPSC frequency. 4. alpha-Bungarotoxin, a selective alpha7 subunit antagonist, failed to block the nicotinic facilitatory action. Mecamylamine, a broad-spectrum nicotinic antagonist, reversibly inhibited nicotinic action. Dihydro-beta-erythroidine, a selective antagonist of nAChRs containing alpha4-beta2 subunits, completely blocked nicotinic action. 5. Ca(2+)-free but not Cd(2+)-containing bath solutions blocked nicotinic actions. 6. We therefore conclude that nicotine facilitates glycine release in the substantia gelatinosa of the spinal dorsal horn via specific nAChRs containing alpha4-beta2 subunits. This action on a subset of presynaptic nAChRs may underlie nicotine's modulation of noxious signal transmission and provide a cellular mechanism for the analgesic function of nicotine.

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