An impaired spinal GABAergic inhibitory function is known to be pivotal in neuropathic pain (NPP). At present, data concerning time-dependent alterations within the GABAergic system itself and post-synaptic GABA(A) receptor-mediated inhibitory transmission are highly controversial, likely related to the experimental NPP model used. Furthermore, it is unknown whether the severity of NPP is determined by the degree of these GABAergic disturbances. In the present study we therefore examined in one experimental animal model whether anatomical changes within the spinal GABAergic system and its GABA(A) receptor-mediated inhibitory function are gradually aggravated during the development of partial sciatic nerve injury (PSNL)-induced NPP and are related to the severity of PSNL-induced hypersensitivity. Three and 16 days after a unilateral PSNL (early and late NPP, respectively), GABA-immunoreactivity (GABA-IR) and the number of GABA-IR neuronal profiles were determined in Rexed laminae 1-3 of lumbar spinal cord cryosections. Additionally, the efficiency of dorsal horn GABA(A) receptor-induced inhibition was examined by cation chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2) immunoblotting. NPP-induced hypersensitivity was only observed at the ipsilateral side, both at early and late time points. During early NPP, a decrease in ipsilateral dorsal horn GABA-IR was observed without alterations in the number of GABA-IR neuronal profiles or KCC2 protein levels. In contrast, bilateral increases in spinal GABA-IR accompanied by an unchanged number of GABA-IR interneurons were observed during late NPP. This was furthermore attended with decreased ipsilateral KCC2 levels. Moreover, the degree of hypersensitivity was not related to disturbances within the spinal GABAergic system at all time points examined. In conclusion, our anatomical data suggest that a dysfunctional GABA production is likely to be involved in early NPP whereas late NPP is characterized by a combined dysfunctional GABA release and decreased KCC2 levels, the latter suggesting an impaired GABA(A) receptor-mediated inhibition.
Copyright © 2011 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.