Long-lasting analgesic and neuroprotective action of the non-benzodiazepine anxiolytic etifoxine in a mouse model of neuropathic pain

"Neuropathic pain is frequently associated with anxiety and major depressive disorders, which considerably impact the overall patient experience. Favoring GABAergic inhibition through the pain matrix has emerged as a promising strategy to restore proper processing of nociceptive and affective information in neuropathic pain states. In this context, the non-benzodiazepine anxiolytic etifoxine (EFX), known to amplify GABAergic inhibition through positive modulation of GABAA receptors and neurosteroidogenesis, presents several advantages. Therefore, we sought to investigate the preclinical therapeutic potential of EFX on the somatosensory and affective components of neuropathic pain. Here, we used a murine model in which neuropathic pain was induced by the implantation of a compressive cuff around the sciatic nerve (mononeuropathy). We showed that the intraperitoneal EFX treatment for five consecutive days (50 mg/kg) relieved mechanical allodynia in a sustained manner. Besides its effect on evoked mechanical hypersensitivity, EFX also alleviated aversiveness of ongoing pain as well as anxiodepressive-like consequences of neuropathic pain following cuff-induced mononeuropathy. This effect was also seen 12 weeks after induction of the neuropathy when allodynia was no longer present. Analgesic and neuroprotective actions of EFX were also seen by the absence of neuropathic pain symptoms if a second sciatic nerve constriction injury was applied to the contralateral hindpaw. Mass spectrometry analysis revealed a normalization of brainstem serotonin levels in EFX-treated animals and an increase in norepinephrine. This study suggests that EFX presents promising therapeutic potential for the relief of both somatosensory and affective consequences of neuropathic pain, a beneficial effect that is likely to involve monoamine descending controls."


Nisrine Kamoun, Géraldine Gazzo, Yannick Goumon, Virginie Andry, Ipek Yalcin, Pierrick Poisbeau

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