Enhanced analgesic cholinergic tone in the spinal cord in a mouse model of neuropathic pain

"Endogenous acetylcholine (ACh) is an important modulator of nociceptive sensory processing in the spinal cord. An increased level of spinal ACh induces analgesia both in humans and rodents while interfering with cholinergic signaling is allodynic, demonstrating that a basal tone of spinal ACh modulates nociceptive responses in naïve animals. The plasticity undergone by this cholinergic system in chronic pain situation is unknown, and the mere presence of this tone in neuropathic animals is controversial. We have addressed these issues in mice through behavioral experiments, histology, electrophysiology and molecular biology, in the cuff model of peripheral neuropathy. Our behavior experiments demonstrate the persistence, and even increased impact of the analgesic cholinergic tone acting through nicotinic receptors in cuff animals. The neuropathy does not affect the number or membrane properties of dorsal horn cholinergic neurons, nor specifically the frequency of their synaptic inputs. The alterations thus appear to be in the neurons receiving the cholinergic signaling, which is confirmed by the fact that subthreshold doses of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors in sham animals become anti-allodynic in cuff mice and by the altered expression of the β2 nicotinic receptor subunit. Our results demonstrate that endogenous cholinergic signaling can be manipulated to relieve mechanical allodynia in animal models of peripheral neuropathy. Until now, AChE inhibitors have mainly been used in the clinics in situations of acute pain (parturition, post-operative). The fact that lower doses (thus with fewer side effects) could be efficient in chronic pain conditions opens new avenues for the treatment of neuropathic pain."


Dhanasak Dhanasobhon, Maria-Carmen Medrano, Léa J Becker, Yunuen Moreno-Lopez, Sehrazat Kavraal, Charlotte Bichara, Rémy Schlichter, Perrine Inquimbert, Ipek Yalcin, Matilde Cordero-Erausquin

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