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Pain. 2011 Mar;152(3):649-55. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.12.014. Epub 2011 Jan 15.

Calcium channel alpha-2-delta-1 protein upregulation in dorsal spinal cord mediates spinal cord injury-induced neuropathic pain states.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of California Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) commonly results in the development of neuropathic pain, which can dramatically impair the quality of life for SCI patients. SCI-induced neuropathic pain can be manifested as both tactile allodynia (a painful sensation to a non-noxious stimulus) and hyperalgesia (an enhanced sensation to a painful stimulus). The mechanisms underlying these pain states are poorly understood. Clinical studies have shown that gabapentin, a drug that binds to the voltage-gated calcium channel alpha-2-delta-1 subunit (Ca(v)α2δ-1) proteins is effective in the management of SCI-induced neuropathic pain. Accordingly, we hypothesized that tactile allodynia post SCI is mediated by an upregulation of Ca(v)α2δ-1 in dorsal spinal cord. To test this hypothesis, we examined whether SCI-induced dysregulation of spinal Ca(v)α2δ-1 plays a contributory role in below-level allodynia development in a rat spinal T9 contusion injury model. We found that Ca(v)α2δ-1 expression levels were significantly increased in L4-6 dorsal, but not ventral, spinal cord of SCI rats that correlated with tactile allodynia development in the hind paw plantar surface. Furthermore, both intrathecal gabapentin treatment and blocking SCI-induced Ca(v)α2δ-1 protein upregulation by intrathecal Ca(v)α2δ-1 antisense oligodeoxynucleotides could reverse tactile allodynia in SCI rats. These findings support that SCI-induced Ca(v)α2δ-1 upregulation in spinal dorsal horn is a key component in mediating below-level neuropathic pain states, and selectively targeting this pathway may provide effective pain relief for SCI patients. Spinal cord contusion injury caused increased calcium channel Ca(v)α2δ-1 subunit expression in dorsal spinal cord that contributes to neuropathic pain states.

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