The large diversity of peptides from venomous creatures with high affinity for molecules involved in the development and maintenance of neuropathic pain has led to a surge in venom-derived analgesic research. Some members of the α-conotoxin family from Conus snails which specifically target subtypes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) have been shown to be effective at reducing mechanical allodynia in neuropathic pain models. We sought to determine if three such peptides, Vc1.1, AuIB and MII were effective following intrathecal administration in a rat neuropathic pain model because they exhibit different affinities for the major putative pain relieving targets of α-conotoxins. Intrathecal administration of α-conotoxins, Vc1.1, AuIB and MII into neuropathic rats reduced mechanical allodynia for up to 6 h without significant side effects. In vitro patch-clamp electrophysiology of primary afferent synaptic transmission revealed the mode of action of these toxins was not via a GABA(B)-dependent mechanism, and is more likely related to their action at nAChRs containing combinations of α3, α7 or other subunits. Intrathecal nAChR subunit-selective conotoxins are therefore promising tools for the effective treatment of neuropathic pain.
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