Peripheral and spinal GABAergic regulation of incisional pain in rats

Pain. 2012 Jan;153(1):129-141. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2011.09.028. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Impairment of spinal GABAergic inhibition is demonstrated to contribute to pathologic chronic pain states. We investigated spinal and peripheral GABAergic regulation of incisional pain in rats. We found that intrathecal but not peripheral administration of muscimol (GABA-A receptor agonist) and baclofen (GABA-B receptor agonist) reduced mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia after plantar incision in rats. Nonevoked pain behavior after incision was unaffected by these agonists. Similarly, nociception in unincised rats was not reduced by the same dose of agonists. Thus, GABA-A and GABA-B receptors are involved in mediating incision-induced hyperalgesia (but not nonevoked pain). Intrathecal and systemic application of L-838,417, a subtype-selective benzodiazepine site agonist (α2, α3, α5), reduced mechanical and heat hyperalgesia after incision, indicating a role of these subunits in mediating incision-induced hyperalgesia. Interestingly, the effects of all agonists were more intense and prolonged on the day after surgery than on the day of incision. Similarly, spinally administered GABA-A and GABA-B antagonists increased pain behavior, again with a greater effect 1 day after incision. One possible explanation for this finding might be that an incision modulates GABA-mediated inhibition 1 day after incision. However, expression of GABA-A receptor subunits α2 and α3 and GABA-B receptor subunits within the dorsal horn of the spinal cord were unchanged after incision, indicating that receptor expression cannot explain a possible modulation of GABAergic inhibition after incision. Thus, other mechanisms need to be considered. In conclusion, GABA-A and GABA-B receptors are promising targets for postoperative, incisional pain in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Baclofen / administration & dosage
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Chronic Pain / metabolism
  • Hyperalgesia / drug therapy*
  • Hyperalgesia / metabolism
  • Muscimol / administration & dosage
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Muscimol
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Baclofen