An increase in spinal cord noradrenaline is a major contributor to the antihyperalgesic effect of antidepressants after peripheral nerve injury in the rat

Pain. 2012 May;153(5):990-997. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.01.029. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Antidepressants are often used for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Clinical studies suggest that the efficacy of serotonin (5-HT) and noradrenaline (NA) reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) for neuropathic pain is greater than that of selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In the present study, we determined the efficacy and mechanisms involved in the antihyperalgesic effects of milnacipran, an SNRI, compared with paroxetine, an SSRI, and maprotiline, a selective NA reuptake inhibitor, using a rat model of neuropathic pain. Male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent spinal nerve ligation (SNL), and the withdrawal threshold to paw pressure was measured. Intraperitoneal injection of milnacipran (3-30mg/kg) produced a dose-dependent antihyperalgesic effect. The effect was reversed by intrathecal injection of the α(2)-adrenoceptor antagonist idazoxan (30μg), but not by various 5-HT receptor antagonists. Paroxetine produced an antihyperalgesic effect only at the highest dose tested (10mg/kg). This effect was reversed by intrathecal injection of both idazoxan and ondansetron (30μg), a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist. Maprotiline produced an antihyperalgesic effect (10 and 30mg/kg), and the effect was reversed by intrathecal idazoxan. In microdialysis studies, NA and 5-HT concentrations in the spinal dorsal horn were increased after injection of either milnacipran or paroxetine, and only NA was increased after maprotiline. Furthermore, the NA content in the spinal cord of SNL rats was greater than that in normal animals. These findings suggest that an increase in NA in the spinal cord plays an important role in the antihyperalgesic effects of not only NA reuptake inhibitors but also SSRIs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cyclopropanes / pharmacology
  • Cyclopropanes / therapeutic use*
  • Hyperalgesia / drug therapy*
  • Hyperalgesia / etiology
  • Hyperalgesia / metabolism
  • Idazoxan / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Milnacipran
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / complications*
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism
  • Spinal Nerves / injuries*


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Analgesics
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Cyclopropanes
  • Milnacipran
  • Norepinephrine
  • Idazoxan