The role of neurokinin 1 receptors in the maintenance of visceral hyperalgesia induced by repeated stress in rats

Gastroenterology. 2006 May;130(6):1729-42. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2006.01.037.


Background & aims: The neurokinin 1 receptors (NK(1)Rs) and substance P (SP) have been implicated in the stress and/or pain pathways involved in chronic pain conditions. Here we examined the participation of NK(1)Rs in sustained visceral hyperalgesia observed in rats exposed to chronic psychological stress.

Methods: Male Wistar rats were exposed to daily 1-hour water avoidance stress (WA) or sham WA for 10 consecutive days. We tested intraperitoneal or intrathecal injection of the NK(1)R antagonist SR140333 on the visceromotor reflex to colorectal distention in both groups at day 11. Real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, Western blot, and immunohistochemistry were used to assess the expression of NK(1)Rs and/or SP in samples of colon, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglia.

Results: Both intraperitoneal and intrathecal SR140333 injection diminished the enhanced visceromotor reflex to colorectal distention at day 11 in stressed rats but did not affect the response in control animals. Real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blotting demonstrated stress-induced up-regulation of spinal NK(1)Rs. Immunohistochemistry showed an increased number of NK(1)R-expressing neurons in the laminae I of the dorsal horn in stressed rats. The expression of NK(1)Rs was decreased in colon from stressed rats compared with control. The expression of SP gene precursor in dorsal root ganglia was unchanged in stressed rats compared with controls.

Conclusions: Stress-induced increased NK(1)R expression on spinal neurons and the inhibitory effect of intrathecal NK(1)R antagonist on visceral hyperalgesia support the key contribution of spinal NK(1)Rs in the molecular pathways involved in the maintenance of visceral hyperalgesia observed after chronic WA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electromyography
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Piperidines / pharmacology*
  • Quinuclidines / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / metabolism*
  • Reference Values
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Piperidines
  • Quinuclidines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1
  • SR 140333