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J Neurophysiol. 2014 Mar;111(5):991-1007. doi: 10.1152/jn.00609.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

Synaptic modulation and inward current produced by oxytocin in substantia gelatinosa neurons of adult rat spinal cord slices.

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Department of Physiology, Saga Medical School, Saga, Japan.


Cellular mechanisms for antinociception produced by oxytocin in the spinal dorsal horn have not yet been investigated thoroughly. We examined how oxytocin affects synaptic transmission in substantia gelatinosa neurons, which play a pivotal role in regulating nociceptive transmission, by applying the whole-cell patch-clamp technique to the substantia gelatinosa neurons of adult rat spinal cord slices. Bath-applied oxytocin did not affect glutamatergic spontaneous, monosynaptically-evoked primary-afferent Aδ-fiber and C-fiber excitatory transmissions. On the other hand, oxytocin produced an inward current at -70 mV and enhanced GABAergic and glycinergic spontaneous inhibitory transmissions. These activities were repeated with a slow recovery from desensitization, concentration-dependent and mimicked by oxytocin-receptor agonist. The oxytocin current was inhibited by oxytocin-receptor antagonist, intracellular GDPβS, U-73122, 2-aminoethoxydiphenyl borate, but not dantrolene, chelerythrine, dibutyryl cyclic-AMP, CNQX, Ca(2+)-free and tetrodotoxin, while the spontaneous inhibitory transmission enhancements were depressed by tetrodotoxin. Current-voltage relation for the oxytocin current reversed at negative potentials more than the equilibrium potential for K(+), or around 0 mV. The oxytocin current was depressed in high-K(+), low-Na(+) or Ba(2+)-containing solution. Vasopressin V1A-receptor antagonist inhibited the oxytocin current, but there was no correlation in amplitude between a vasopressin-receptor agonist [Arg(8)]vasopressin and oxytocin responses. It is concluded that oxytocin produces a membrane depolarization mediated by oxytocin but not vasopressin-V1A receptors, which increases neuronal activity, resulting in the enhancement of inhibitory transmission, a possible mechanism for antinociception. This depolarization is due to a change in membrane permeabilities to K(+) and/or Na(+), which is possibly mediated by phospholipase C and inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate-induced Ca(2+)-release.


oxytocin; pain; patch clamp; spinal dorsal horn

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