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Anesthesiology. 2002 Oct;97(4):972-80.

Perineural alpha(2A)-adrenoceptor activation inhibits spinal cord neuroplasticity and tactile allodynia after nerve injury.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Clinic, Hopital St. Luc, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.



Nerve injury in animals increases alpha(2)-adrenoceptor expression in dorsal root ganglion cells and results in novel excitatory responses to their activation, perhaps leading to the phenomenon of sympathetically maintained pain. In contrast to this notion, peripheral alpha(2)-adrenoceptor stimulation fails to induce pain in patients with chronic pain. We hypothesized that alpha(2) adrenoceptors at the site of nerve injury play an inhibitory, not excitatory role.


Partial sciatic nerve ligation was performed on rats, resulting in a reduction in withdrawal threshold to tactile stimulation. Animals received perineural injection at the injury site of clonidine, saline, or clonidine plus an alpha(2)-adrenergic antagonist, and withdrawal threshold was monitored. Immunohistochemistry was performed on the sciatic nerve ipsi- and contralateral to injury and on the spinal cord.


Clonidine reduced this hypersensitivity in a dose-dependent manner, and this was blocked by an alpha(2A)-preferring antagonist. Perineural clonidine injection had a slow onset (days) and prolonged duration (weeks). Systemic or intrathecal clonidine, or transient neural blockade with ropivacaine, had short lasting or no effect on hypersensitivity. alpha(2A)-adrenoceptor immunostaining was increased near the site of peripheral nerve injury, both in neurons and in immune cells (macrophages and T lymphocytes). Phosphorylated cAMP response element binding protein (pCREB) in lumbar spinal cord was increased ipsilateral to nerve injury, and this was reduced 1 week after perineural clonidine injection.


These data suggest that peripheral alpha(2) adrenoceptors are concentrated at the site of peripheral nerve injury, and their activation receptors produce long-lasting reductions in abnormal spinal cord gene activation and mechanical hypersensitivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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