Analysis of the long-term actions of gabapentin and pregabalin in dorsal root ganglia and substantia gelatinosa

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Nov 15;112(10):2398-412. doi: 10.1152/jn.00168.2014. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


The α2δ-ligands pregabalin (PGB) and gabapentin (GBP) are used to treat neuropathic pain. We used whole cell recording to study their long-term effects on substantia gelatinosa and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Spinal cord slices were prepared from embryonic day 13 rat embryos and maintained in organotypic culture for >5 wk (neuronal age equivalent to young adult rats). Exposure of similarly aged DRG neurons (dissociated and cultured from postnatal day 19 rats) to GBP or PGB for 5-6 days attenuated high-voltage-activated calcium channel currents (HVA ICa). Strong effects were seen in medium-sized and in small isolectin B4-negative (IB4-) DRG neurons, whereas large neurons and small neurons that bound isolectin B4 (IB4+) were hardly affected. GBP (100 μM) or PGB (10 μM) were less effective than 20 μM Mn(2+) in suppression of HVA ICa in small DRG neurons. By contrast, 5-6 days of exposure to these α2δ-ligands was more effective than 20 μM Mn(2+) in reducing spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents at synapses in substantia gelatinosa. Spinal actions of gabapentinoids cannot therefore be ascribed to decreased expression of HVA Ca(2+) channels in primary afferent nerve terminals. In substantia gelatinosa, 5-6 days of exposure to PGB was more effective in inhibiting excitatory synaptic drive to putative excitatory neurons than to putative inhibitory neurons. Although spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents were also attenuated, the overall long-term effect of α2δ-ligands was to decrease network excitability as monitored by confocal Ca(2+) imaging. We suggest that selective actions of α2δ-ligands on populations of DRG neurons may predict their selective attenuation of excitatory transmission onto excitatory vs. inhibitory neurons in substantia gelatinosa.

Keywords: Ca2+ channel; nerve injury; neuropathic pain; organotypic cultures; patch clamp; α2δ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Gabapentin
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Pregabalin
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Substantia Gelatinosa / drug effects*
  • Substantia Gelatinosa / physiology
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Amines
  • Analgesics
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Calcium Channels
  • Cyclohexanecarboxylic Acids
  • Pregabalin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Gabapentin
  • Calcium