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Pain. 2015 Sep;156(9):1714-28. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000221.

Subpopulations of PKCγ interneurons within the medullary dorsal horn revealed by electrophysiologic and morphologic approach.

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aInserm/UdA U1107, Neuro-Dol: Trigeminal Pain and Migraine, Université d'Auvergne, Faculté de Chirurgie Dentaire, Clermont-Ferrand, France bCHU Clermont-Ferrand, Service d'Odontologie, Clermont-Ferrand, France.


Mechanical allodynia, a cardinal symptom of persistent pain, is associated with the unmasking of usually blocked local circuits within the superficial spinal or medullary dorsal horn (MDH) through which low-threshold mechanical inputs can gain access to the lamina I nociceptive output neurons. Specific interneurons located within inner lamina II (IIi) and expressing the gamma isoform of protein kinase C (PKCγ⁺) have been shown to be key elements for such circuits. However, their morphologic and electrophysiologic features are still unknown. Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and immunohistochemical techniques in slices of adult rat MDH, we characterized such lamina IIi PKCγ⁺ interneurons and compared them with neighboring PKCγ⁻ interneurons. Our results reveal that PKCγ⁺ interneurons display very specific activity and response properties. Compared with PKCγ⁻ interneurons, they exhibit a smaller membrane input resistance and rheobase, leading to a lower threshold for action potentials. Consistently, more than half of PKCγ⁺ interneurons respond with tonic firing to step current. They also receive a weaker excitatory synaptic drive. Most PKCγ⁺ interneurons express Ih currents. The neurites of PKCγ⁺ interneurons arborize extensively within lamina IIi, can spread dorsally into lamina IIo, but never reach lamina I. In addition, at least 2 morphologically and functionally different subpopulations of PKCγ⁺ interneurons can be identified: central and radial PKCγ⁺ interneurons. The former exhibit a lower membrane input resistance, rheobase and, thus, action potential threshold, and less PKCγ⁺ immunoreactivity than the latter. These 2 subpopulations might thus differently contribute to the gating of dorsally directed circuits within the MDH underlying mechanical allodynia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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