Spinal cord injury (SCI) commonly results in the development of neuropathic pain, which can dramatically impair the quality of life for SCI patients. SCI-induced neuropathic pain can be manifested as both tactile allodynia (a painful sensation to a non-noxious stimulus) and hyperalgesia (an enhanced sensation to a painful stimulus). The mechanisms underlying these pain states are poorly understood. Clinical studies have shown that gabapentin, a drug that binds to the voltage-gated calcium channel alpha-2-delta-1 subunit (Ca(v)α2δ-1) proteins is effective in the management of SCI-induced neuropathic pain. Accordingly, we hypothesized that tactile allodynia post SCI is mediated by an upregulation of Ca(v)α2δ-1 in dorsal spinal cord. To test this hypothesis, we examined whether SCI-induced dysregulation of spinal Ca(v)α2δ-1 plays a contributory role in below-level allodynia development in a rat spinal T9 contusion injury model. We found that Ca(v)α2δ-1 expression levels were significantly increased in L4-6 dorsal, but not ventral, spinal cord of SCI rats that correlated with tactile allodynia development in the hind paw plantar surface. Furthermore, both intrathecal gabapentin treatment and blocking SCI-induced Ca(v)α2δ-1 protein upregulation by intrathecal Ca(v)α2δ-1 antisense oligodeoxynucleotides could reverse tactile allodynia in SCI rats. These findings support that SCI-induced Ca(v)α2δ-1 upregulation in spinal dorsal horn is a key component in mediating below-level neuropathic pain states, and selectively targeting this pathway may provide effective pain relief for SCI patients. Spinal cord contusion injury caused increased calcium channel Ca(v)α2δ-1 subunit expression in dorsal spinal cord that contributes to neuropathic pain states.
Copyright © 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.