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Brain Res. 1990 Jun 11;519(1-2):169-82.

The involvement of neurokinin receptor subtypes in somatosensory processing in the superficial dorsal horn of the cat.

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  • 1Department of Preclinical Veterinary Sciences, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Summerhall, Edinburgh, U.K.

Erratum in

  • Brain Res 1992 May 8;579(2):357.


As well as substance P (SP), neurokinin A (NKA) and neurokinin B (NKB) have recently been found in the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord; NKA originating mainly in fine primary afferents. We have investigated the effects of these tachykinins and a range of analogues on somatosensory responses of single identified dorsal horn neurons, when applied ionophoretically to the region of the substantia gelatinosa. Behavioural reflex tests of thermal nociception were carried out in parallel. The role of NK-1, NK-2 and NK-3 receptors was addressed. NK-1-selective agonists attenuated the non-nociceptive responses of identified multireceptive spinocervical tract (SCT) neurons. Of the endogenous tachykinins, both SP and NKB (a weak NK-1 agonist) showed this effect. No role for NK-3 receptors was identified in our experiments. NK-2-selective agonists (including NKA) caused a unique and selective facilitation of thermal nociceptive responses. NKA also reduced reflex response latency in tail-flick and hot plate tests. NKA as a primary afferent transmitter may thus be involved in mediating or facilitating the expression of thermal nociceptive inputs in the substantia gelatinosa. NKA and SP could be considered as acting in concert in the superficial dorsal horn in an effectively pro-nociceptive modulatory role. Evidence from receptor-selective antagonists supports that obtained with agonists for the roles of particular NK receptors in somatosensory processing. NK-2, but not NK-1 or NK-3 antagonists attenuated endogenous thermal nociceptive responses, supporting the hypothesis that an NK-2 agonist (such as NKA) may normally participate in expression of thermal nociception in the superficial dorsal horn. Behavioural experiments showing increased response latencies with a putative NK-2 selective antagonist further supported the involvement of NK-2 receptors in thermal nociception.

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