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Neuroscience. 2006 May 12;139(2):539-53. Epub 2006 Feb 10.

Presynaptic alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors modulate release of inhibitory amino acids in rat spinal cord dorsal horn.

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Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics and the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Local inhibition within the spinal cord dorsal horn is mediated by the neurotransmitters GABA and glycine and strongly influences nociceptive and temperature signaling. Alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors are expressed by inhibitory interneurons and have been shown to modulate GABA release in other regions of the CNS. In the spinal cord, there is morphological evidence for presynaptic AMPA receptor subunits in GABAergic dorsal horn neurons, but functional data are lacking. To determine if AMPA receptors are indeed functional at presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons, we recorded evoked and miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSPs) in the superficial dorsal horn of the rat spinal cord. We show that AMPA receptor activation enhances spontaneous release of inhibitory amino acids in the presence of tetrodotoxin onto both lamina II neurons and NK1 receptor-expressing (NK1R+) lamina I neurons. This effect is sensitive to the concentration of extracellular Ca2+, yet is not fully blocked in most neurons in the presence of Cd2+, suggesting possible Ca2+ entry through AMPA receptors. Postsynaptic Ca2+ elevation is not required for these changes. AMPA-induced increases in mIPSP frequency are also seen in more mature dorsal horn neurons, indicating that these receptors may play a role in nociceptive processing in the adult. In addition, we have observed AMPA-induced depression of evoked release of GABA and glycine onto lamina I NK1R+ neurons. Taken together these data support a role for presynaptic AMPA receptors in modulating release of GABA and glycine in the superficial dorsal horn. Because inhibition in the dorsal horn is important for controlling pain signaling, presynaptic AMPA receptors acting to modulate the inhibitory inputs onto dorsal horn neurons would be expected to impact upon pain signaling in the spinal cord dorsal horn.

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