Inhibitory M2 muscarinic receptors are upregulated in both axotomized and intact small diameter dorsal root ganglion cells after peripheral nerve injury

Neuroscience. 2006 Jun 19;140(1):259-68. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.02.013. Epub 2006 Mar 31.


Acetylcholine reduces nociceptive input in part by activating inhibitory M2 muscarinic receptors on primary sensory neurons, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and muscarinic agonists produce analgesia in humans and animals. M2 muscarinic receptors are upregulated in animals with diabetic neuropathy, but their level of expression and function after peripheral nerve injury has not been previously examined. This study tested, using intracellular Ca(2+) response to membrane depolarization, the effect of the M2 muscarinic receptor agonist bethanechol on individual dorsal root ganglion cells from normal and L5-6 spinal nerve-ligated rats, followed by M2 muscarinic receptor immunostaining. We also examined functional transient receptor potential for vanilloids-1 activity by determining intracellular Ca(2+) response evoked by capsaicin in M2 muscarinic receptor immunoreactive cells. In normal dorsal root ganglion cells, bethanechol inhibited the Ca(2+) response in a concentration-related fashion, and this inhibition was blocked by the M2 muscarinic receptor antagonist gallamine. Cells expressing M2 muscarinic receptors by immunostaining were significantly inhibited by bethanechol, whereas those lacking positive staining were not. The proportion of studied dorsal root ganglion neurons with positive M2 muscarinic receptor staining increased significantly in the injured ipsilateral L5-6 and the uninjured ipsilateral L4 ganglia, but not in the contralateral dorsal root ganglion neurons compared with normals. In contrast, the proportion of neurons responding to capsaicin significantly decreased in the injured ipsilateral L5-6 dorsal root ganglion cells. These results suggest that inhibitory M2 muscarinic receptors are upregulated in small- and medium-sized axotomized dorsal root ganglion neurons and their uninjured neighbors following nerve injury, and may represent an appropriate target for analgesia in this setting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axotomy / methods
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bethanechol / pharmacology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gallamine Triethiodide / pharmacology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Male
  • Muscarinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Potassium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2 / metabolism*


  • Muscarinic Agonists
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2
  • Bethanechol
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Gallamine Triethiodide
  • Capsaicin
  • Calcium