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Anesthesiology. 2011 Feb;114(2):412-23. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318205df50.

Effect of inhibition of spinal cord glutamate transporters on inflammatory pain induced by formalin and complete Freund's adjuvant.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.



Spinal cord glutamate transporters clear synaptically released glutamate and maintain normal sensory transmission. However, their ultrastructural localization is unknown. Moreover, whether and how they participate in inflammatory pain has not been carefully studied.


Immunogold labeling with electron microscopy was carried out to characterize synaptic and nonsynaptic localization of glutamate transporters in the superficial dorsal horn. Their expression and uptake activity after formalin- and complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA)-induced inflammation were evaluated by Western blot analysis and glutamate uptake assay. Effects of intrathecal glutamate transporter activator (R)-(-)-5-methyl-1-nicotinoyl-2-pyrazoline and inhibitors (DL-threo-β-benzyloxyaspartate [TBOA], dihydrokainate, and DL-threo-β-hydroxyaspartate), or TBOA plus group III metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist (RS)-α-methylserine-O-phosphate, on formalin- and CFA-induced inflammatory pain were examined.


In the superficial dorsal horn, excitatory amino acid carrier 1 is localized in presynaptic membrane, postsynaptic membrane, and axonal and dendritic membranes at nonsynaptic sites, whereas glutamate transporter-1 and glutamate/aspartate transporter are prominent in glial membranes. Although expression of these three spinal glutamate transporters was not altered 1 h after formalin injection or 6 h after CFA injection, glutamate uptake activity was decreased at these time points. Intrathecal (R)-(-)-5-methyl-1-nicotinoyl-2-pyrazoline had no effect on formalin-induced pain behaviors. In contrast, intrathecal TBOA, dihydrokainate, and DL-threo-β-hydroxyaspartate reduced formalin-evoked pain behaviors in the second phase. Intrathecal TBOA also attenuated CFA-induced thermal hyperalgesia at 6 h after CFA injection. The antinociceptive effects of TBOA were blocked by coadministration of (RS)-α-methylserine-O-phosphate.


Our findings suggest that spinal glutamate transporter inhibition relieves inflammatory pain through activation of inhibitory presynaptic group III metabotropic glutamate receptors.

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