Muscarinic receptor subtypes mediating central and peripheral antinociception studied with muscarinic receptor knockout mice: a review

Life Sci. 2003 Mar 28;72(18-19):2047-54. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(03)00082-1.


To gain new insight into the physiological and pathophysiological roles of the muscarinic cholinergic system, we generated mutant mouse strains deficient in each of the five muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes (M(1)-M(5)). In this chapter, we review a set of recent studies dealing with the identification of the muscarinic receptor subtypes mediating muscarinic agonist-dependent analgesic effects by central and peripheral mechanisms. Most of these studies were carried out with mutant mouse strains lacking M(2) or/and M(4) muscarinic receptors. It is well known that administration of centrally active muscarinic agonists induces pronounced analgesic effects. To identify the muscarinic receptors mediating this activity, wild-type and muscarinic receptor mutant mice were injected with the non-subtype-selective muscarinic agonist, oxotremorine (s.c., i.t., and i.c.v.), and analgesic effects were assessed in the tail-flick and hot-plate tests. These studies showed that M(2) receptors play a key role in mediating the analgesic effects of oxotremorine, both at the spinal and supraspinal level. However, studies with M(2)/M(4) receptor double KO mice indicated that M(4) receptors also contribute to this activity. Recent evidence suggests that activation of muscarinic receptors located in the skin can reduce the sensitivity of peripheral nociceptors. Electrophysiological and neurochemical studies with skin preparations from muscarinic receptor mutant mice indicated that muscarine-induced peripheral antinociception is mediated by M(2) receptors. Since acetylcholine is synthesized and released by different cell types of the skin, it is possible that non-neuronally released acetylcholine plays a role in modulating peripheral nociception. Our results highlight the usefulness of muscarinic receptor mutant mice to shed light on the functional roles of acetylcholine released from both neuronal and non-neuronal cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Analgesics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Endings / drug effects
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / drug effects
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism


  • Analgesics
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide