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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006 Dec;319(3):1051-61. Epub 2006 Sep 22.

Rapid broad-spectrum analgesia through activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha.

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Department of Pharmacology, Center for Drug Discovery, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-4625, USA.


Severe pain remains a major area of unmet medical need. Here we report that agonists of the nuclear receptor PPAR-alpha (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha) suppress pain behaviors induced in mice by chemical tissue injury, nerve damage, or inflammation. The PPAR-alpha agonists GW7647 [2-(4-(2-(1-cyclohexanebutyl)-3-cyclohexylureido)ethyl)phenylthio)-2-methylpropionic acid], Wy-14643 [4-chloro-6-(2,3-xylidino)-2-pyrimidinylthioacetic acid], and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) reduced nocifensive behaviors elicited in mice by intraplantar ( injection of formalin or i.p. injection of magnesium sulfate. These effects were absent in PPAR-alpha-null mice yet occurred within minutes of agonist administration in wild-type mice, suggesting that they were mediated through a transcription-independent mechanism. Consistent with this hypothesis, blockade of calcium-operated IK(ca) (K(Ca)3.1) and BK(ca) (K(Ca)1.1) potassium channels prevented the effects of GW7647 and PEA in the formalin test. Three observations suggest that PPAR-alpha agonists may inhibit nocifensive responses by acting on peripheral PPAR-alpha. (i) PEA reduced formalin-induced pain at doses that produced no increase in systemic PEA levels; (ii) PPAR-alpha was expressed in dorsal root ganglia neurons of wild-type but not PPAR-alpha-null mice; and (ii) GW7647 and PEA prevented formalin-induced firing of spinal cord nociceptive neurons in rats. In addition to modulating nociception, GW7647 and PEA reduced hyperalgesic responses in the chronic constriction injury model of neuropathic pain; these effects were also contingent on PPAR-alpha expression and were observed following either acute or subchronic PPAR-alpha agonist administration. Finally, acute administration of GW7647 and PEA reduced hyperalgesic responses in the complete Freund's adjuvant and carrageenan models of inflammatory pain. Our results suggest that PPAR-alpha agonists may represent a novel class of analgesics.

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