Ionotropic glutamate receptors in spinal nociceptive processing

Mol Neurobiol. 2009 Dec;40(3):260-88. doi: 10.1007/s12035-009-8086-8. Epub 2009 Oct 31.


Glutamate is the predominant excitatory transmitter used by primary afferent synapses and intrinsic neurons in the spinal cord dorsal horn. Accordingly, ionotropic glutamate receptors mediate basal spinal transmission of sensory, including nociceptive, information that is relayed to supraspinal centers. However, it has become gradually more evident that these receptors are also crucially involved in short- and long-term plasticity of spinal nociceptive transmission, and that such plasticity have an important role in the pain hypersensitivity that may result from tissue or nerve injury. This review will cover recent findings on pre- and postsynaptic regulation of synaptic function by ionotropic glutamate receptors in the dorsal horn and how such mechanisms contribute to acute and chronic pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid