This study was designed to assess the role of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and its receptor in the sensitization of dorsal horn neurons induced by intradermal injection of capsaicin in rats. Extracellular recordings were made from wide dynamic range (WDR) dorsal horn neurons with receptive fields on the hindpaw in the lumbar enlargement of anesthetized rats. The background activity and responses to brushing, pressing, and pinching the skin were assessed. A postsuperfusion or a presuperfusion of CGRP8-37 paradigm was followed. When tested 30 min after capsaicin injection, there was an increase in background activity and responses to brush, press, and pinch applied to the receptive field. Superfusion of CGRP8-37 into the spinal cord at 45 min after capsaicin injection significantly reversed the increased background activity and responses to brush, press, and pinch applied to the receptive field. On the other hand, spinal superfusion of CGRP 8-37 prior to capsaicin injection prevented the increased background activity and responses to brush, press, and pinch of WDR neurons that occurred following capsaicin injection in control experiments. A sensitization of spinal dorsal horn neurons could also be induced by superfusion of the spinal cord with CGRP. The effect could be blocked by CGRP8-37 dose-dependently. Collectively, these results suggest that CGRP and its receptors are involved in the spinal cord central sensitization induced by intradermal injection of capsaicin.
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