Windup in dorsal horn neurons is modulated by endogenous spinal μ-opioid mechanisms

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The μ-opioid receptor (MOR) plays a critical role in morphine analgesia and nociceptive transmission. However, the physiological roles for endogenous MOR mechanisms in modulating spinal nociceptive transmission, and particularly in the enhanced excitability of spinal nociceptive neurons after repeated noxious inputs, are less well understood. Using a MOR gene knock-out (-/-) approach and an MOR-preferring antagonist, we investigated the roles of endogenous MOR mechanisms in processing of acute noxious input and in neuronal sensitization during windup-inducing stimuli in wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons. Extracellular single-unit activity of WDR neurons was recorded in isoflurane-anesthetized MOR-/- and wild-type C57BL/6 mice. There were no significant differences between the genotypes in the responses of deep WDR cells to acute mechanical stimuli, graded electrical stimuli, and noxious chemical stimuli applied to the receptive field. Intracutaneous electrical stimulation at 1.0 Hz produced similar levels of windup in both genotypes. In contrast, 0.2 Hz stimulation induced significantly higher levels of windup in MOR-/- mice compared with the wild-type group. In wild-type mice, spinal superfusion with naloxone hydrochloride (10 mM, 30 μl) significantly enhanced windup to 0.2 Hz stimulation in both deep and superficial WDR cells. A trend toward facilitation of windup was also observed during 1.0 Hz stimulation after naloxone treatment. These results suggest that endogenous MOR mechanisms are not essential in the processing of acute noxious mechanical and electrical stimuli by WDR neurons. However, MORs may play an important role in endogenous inhibitory mechanisms that regulate the development of spinal neuronal sensitization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4298-4307
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2006


  • Neuronal plasticity
  • Pain
  • Spinal cord
  • Transgenic mice
  • Wide dynamic range neuron
  • μ-opioid receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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