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Pain. 2010 Dec;151(3):756-62. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.09.008. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Role of the NKCC1 co-transporter in sensitization of spinal nociceptive neurons.

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McGill University, Anesthesia Research Unit, Faculty of Medicine, 3655 Sir William Osler, McIntyre Medical Building 1207, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The Na(+), K(+), 2Cl(-) co-transporter type 1 (NKCC1) plays a pivotal role in hyperalgesia associated with inflammatory stimuli. NKCC1 contributes to maintain high [Cl(-)](i) in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons which cause primary afferent depolarization (PAD) when GABA(A) receptors are activated. Enhanced GABA-induced depolarization, through increased NKCC1 activity, has been hypothesized to produce orthodromic spike activity of sufficient intensity to account for touch-induced pain. In the present study, we investigate this hypothesis using in vivo electrophysiology on rat dorsal horn neurons; the effects of spinal blockade of NKCC1 on intraplantar capsaicin-induced sensitization of dorsal horn neurons were examined. Single wide dynamic range (WDR) and nociceptive specific (NS) neuron activity in the dorsal horn was recorded using glass microelectrodes in anesthetized rats. Dorsal horn neurons with a receptive field on the plantar surface of the hindpaw were studied. Neuronal responses to mechanical stimuli (brush, von Frey filaments) were recorded ten minutes before intraplantar injection of 0.3 ml 0.1% capsaicin (CAP), 40 min after CAP and 15 min after local application of the NKCC1 blocker bumetanide (BTD; 500 μM) on the spinal cord. After CAP, low and high threshold stimulation of the cutaneous receptive field produced a significant enhancement in spike frequency over pre-CAP values in both WDR and NS neurons. Spinal BTD application reduced the spike frequency to baseline levels as well as attenuated the CAP-induced increases in background activity. Our data support the hypothesis that NKCC1 plays an important role in the sensitization of dorsal horn neurons following a peripheral inflammatory insult.

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