Pharmacological activation of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors can produce non-opioid antinociception in rodents. However, multiple nAChR subtypes exist, the most abundant of which contain α4 and β2 subunits. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the role of α4-containing nAChRs in mediating nicotinic antinociception using an in vivo antisense strategy. Both i.c.v. infusion and repeated bolus injections into the cerebral aqueduct of an antisense oligonucleotide against the α4 subunit significantly attenuated the antinociceptive effects of the nAChR agonist A-85380 in the paw withdrawal test of acute thermal pain. Rats treated with a scrambled oligonucleotide displayed a full antinociceptive response to A-85380, while discontinuing antisense treatment restored the antinociceptive effects of the nicotinic agonist. Double immunohistochemical labeling revealed near-complete overlap of expression of the serotonin marker tryptophan hydroxylase and the α4 nAChR subunit in the dorsal raphe nucleus. The expression of α4-containing nAChRs by serotonergic neurons in the dorsal raphe offered a means to address nonspecific α4 knock-down, i.e., oligonucleotide-induced neurotoxicity. Immunohistochemical detection of α4 expression was reduced by nearly 50% in the dorsal raphe of antisense-treated rats as compared to either saline or missense-treated controls. In contrast, the expression of tryptophan hydroxylase, as well as, the α7 nAChR subunit in antisense-infused rats was similar to that observed in saline- and missense-treated controls. The results of these studies suggest that α4-containing nAChRs, possibly expressed by serotonergic neurons, are involved in nicotinic-mediated analgesia. However, these data do not eliminate the possibility that other nicotinic subunit combinations may also play a role in antinociception produced by nAChR activation.
Brain Research – Elsevier
Published: Jul 14, 2000
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