Analgesic triptan action in an animal model of intracranial pain: a race against the development of central sensitization

Ann Neurol. 2004 Jan;55(1):27-36. doi: 10.1002/ana.10785.


We have shown that the development of cutaneous allodynia (exaggerated skin sensitivity) during migraine is detrimental to the anti-migraine action of the 5HT(IB/ID) receptor agonists known is triptans. Because cutaneous allodynia is a manifestation of sensitization of central trigeminovascular neurons, we examined whether triptan treatment can intercept such sensitization before its initiation or after its establishment in our rat model for cutaneous allodynia induced by intracranial pain. Single-unit recordings were obtained from spinal trigeminal neurons that proved to received convergent inputs from the dura and facial skin. The effects of sumatriptan (300 microg/kg i.v.) on central sensitization induced by topical application of inflammatory soup (IS) on the dura were determined when the drug was administered either 2 h after IS (late intervention) or at the same time as IS (early intervention). Late sumatriptan intervention counteracted two aspects of central sensitization: dural receptive fields, which initially expanded by IS, shrunk back after treatment; neuronal response threshold to dural indentation, which initially decreased after IS, increased after sumatriptan. On the other hand, late sumatriptan intervention did not reverse other aspects of central sensitization: spontaneous firing rate and neuronal response magnitude to skin brushing which initially increased after IS, remained elevated after sumatriptan; response threshold to heating of the skin, which initially dropped after IS, remained low after sumatriptan. Early sumatriptan intervention effectively blocked the development of all aspects of central sensitization expected to be induced 2 h after IS application: dural receptive fields did not expand; neuronal response threshold to dural indentation and skin stimulation did not decrease; spontaneous firing rate did not increase. The early treatment results suggest that triptan action provides a powerful means of preventing the initiation of central sensitization triggered by chemical stimulation of meningeal nociceptors. The late treatment results suggest that triptan action is insufficient to counteract an already established central sensitization. Thus, triptan action appears to be exerted directly on peripheral rather than central trigeminovascular neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electrophysiology
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / chemically induced
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Rats
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • Sumatriptan / therapeutic use
  • Time Factors


  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Sumatriptan