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Pain. 2008 Sep 30;139(1):136-45. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2008.03.023. Epub 2008 May 9.

Cholinergic mechanisms involved in the pain relieving effect of spinal cord stimulation in a model of neuropathy.

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Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Section of Neurosurgery, Karolinska Institutet and University Hospital, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.


The mechanisms underlying the pain relieving effect of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) on neuropathic pain remain unclear. We have previously demonstrated that suppression of tactile hypersensitivity produced by SCS may be potentiated by i.t. clonidine in a rat model of mononeuropathy. Since the analgesic effect of this drug is mediated mainly via cholinergic mechanisms, a study exploring the possible involvement of the spinal cholinergic system in SCS was undertaken. The effect of SCS was assessed with von Frey filaments in rats displaying tactile hypersensitivity after partial ligation of the sciatic nerve and both SCS-responding and non-responding as well as normal rats were subjected to microdialysis in the dorsal horn. Acetylcholine (ACh) was analyzed with HPLC before, during and after SCS. SCS produced significantly increased release of ACh in the dorsal horn in rats responding to SCS whereas the release was unaffected in the non-responding animals. Furthermore, the basal release of ACh was significantly lower in nerve lesioned than in normal rats. In another group of rats it was found that the response to SCS was completely eliminated by i.t. atropine and a muscarinic M(4) receptor antagonist while a partial attenuation was produced by M(1) and M(2) antagonists. Blocking of nicotinic receptors did not influence the SCS effect. In conclusion, the attenuating effect of SCS on pain related behavior is associated with the activation of the cholinergic system in the dorsal horn and mediated via muscarinic receptors, particularly M(4,) while nicotinic receptors appear not to be involved.

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