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J Neurophysiol. 1998 Apr;79(4):1613-8.

Spinal NMDA receptor involvement in expansion of dorsal horn neuronal receptive field area produced by intracutaneous histamine.

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Section of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Histamine elicits the sensation of itch at the site of skin application as well as alloknesis (itch elicited by innocuous mechanical stimuli) in a surrounding area in humans and expansion of the low-threshold mechanosensitive receptive field area of spinal wide dynamic range (WDR)-type dorsal horn neurons in rats. We presently tested if the histamine-evoked expansion of neuronal receptive field area depends on a spinal N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated process. In pentobarbital sodium-anesthetized rats, mechanical receptive field areas of single WDR-type dorsal horn neurons were mapped with graded von Frey filaments before and 10 min after intracutaneous (ic) microinjection of histamine (1 microl; 1, 3, or 10%) at a low-threshold site within the receptive field. Intracutaneous microinjection of histamine evoked dose-related increases in firing rate, as well as a dose-dependent expansion in mean receptive field area 10 min after 3 and 10%, but not 1%, histamine doses. When a noncompetitive or competitive NMDA receptor antagonist dizocilpine [MK-801; D(-)-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (APV), respectively; 1 microM] was first applied topically to the surface of the spinal cord, there was no significant change in mean receptive field area after ic microinjection of 10% histamine. The mean neuronal response to histamine in the presence of spinal MK-801 or APV was not significantly different from the mean response to histamine in the absence of these drugs. These results suggest that spinal NMDA receptors are involved in histamine-induced expansion of mechanical receptive field area, a neural event possibly involved in the development of alloknesis.

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