Background & aims: Central sensitization, an activity-dependent increase in spinal cord neuronal excitability, has been shown to contribute to esophageal pain hypersensitivity. Prostaglandin E2 (PGE(2)) is a mediator in both peripheral and central sensitization, in part via the prostaglandin E2 receptor-1 (EP-1), and may be a potential target for treating visceral pain. The purpose of this study was to determine whether acid-induced pain hypersensitivity within the non-acid-exposed esophagus (secondary hyperalgesia) is mediated by PGE(2) activation of the EP-1 receptor.
Methods: Twelve healthy male subjects participated in a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study. Upper esophageal pain thresholds (PTs) to electrical stimulation were determined, and either the EP-1 antagonist ZD6416 or a placebo was orally administered. One-hour after dosing, acid or saline (0.15 mol/L) was infused into the lower esophagus for 30 minutes. Upper esophageal PT was monitored for 120 minutes after infusion.
Results: Except in 1 subject (who was excluded), the pH in the upper esophagus remained above 5 throughout all studies. In 8 subjects, ZD6416 attenuated the reduction in PT in the upper esophagus normally induced by acid infusion into the lower esophagus (area under curve [AUC]: -11.9 +/- 2.5 and 6.4 +/- 6.7 for placebo and ZD6416, respectively; P < 0.01). After saline infusion, the effects of ZD6416 and placebo were similar (AUC: 9.9 +/- 6 and 4.1 +/- 2, respectively; P = 0.8). Three subjects had no reduction in PT to acid infusion with placebo and were excluded at post hoc analysis.
Conclusions: The attenuation of secondary esophageal hyperalgesia by ZD6416 suggests that PGE(2), via the EP-1 receptor, contributes to human visceral pain hypersensitivity.