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J Pain. 2013 Nov;14(11):1485-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.07.007. Epub 2013 Sep 7.

Valproate prevents dysregulation of spinal glutamate and reduces the development of hypersensitivity in rats after peripheral nerve injury.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


The present study examined whether the histone deacetylase inhibitor valproate prevents downregulation of glutamate transporters in the primary cultured astrocytes and in the spinal cord after L5-L6 spinal nerve ligation (SNL) and whether this action of valproate on spinal glutamate transporters prevents spinal glutamate dysregulation and development of hypersensitivity after SNL. In cultured astrocytes, valproate prevented downregulation of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) and glutamate-aspartate transporter in a concentration-dependent manner. Repeated oral administration of valproate reduced the development of hypersensitivity and prevented the downregulation of spinal GLT-1 and glutamate-aspartate transporter expression in rats after SNL, but did not affect mechanical nociception and expression of those transporters in normal rats. Valproate's effects on hypersensitivity and spinal GLT-1 expression in SNL rats were blocked by intrathecal administration of the selective GLT-1 blocker dihydrokainic acid or the GLT-1 selective small interfering RNA (siRNA). Extracellular glutamate concentration in the spinal cord, measured by microdialysis, was increased in animals with SNL or after GLT-1 selective siRNA treatment, and valproate prevented the SNL-induced glutamate increase. These results suggest that valproate reduces the development of chronic pain after nerve injury in part by preventing downregulation of glutamate transporters, especially GLT-1, to maintain normal extracellular glutamate concentrations in the spinal cord.


This study demonstrates that valproate prevents the downregulation of glutamate transporters in the spinal cord, which contributes in part to the development of chronic pain after nerve injury. Given clinical availability and established safety profiles, perioperative use of valproate should be tested to prevent chronic pain after surgery.


Valproate; astrocyte; chronic pain; glutamate transporter; spinal cord

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