Cannabinoid agonist, CP 55,940, prevents capsaicin-induced sensitization of spinal cord dorsal horn neurons

Lisa M. Johanek, Donald A. Simone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Low doses of cannabinoids applied intrathecally attenuate capsaicin-evoked heat and mechanical hyperalgesia via CB1 receptors. Although cannabinoids produce antinociception, in part, by attenuating responses of nociceptive neurons in the spinal cord, few studies have examined the effect of cannabinoids on sensitization of spinal neurons. We therefore investigated whether a cannabinoid receptor agonist, CP 55,940, attenuated excitation and sensitization of spinal nociceptive neurons produced by intraplantar injection of 0.1% capsaicin (10 μl). In rats, wide-dynamic-range (WDR) and high-threshold (HT) neurons were classified according to responses evoked by mechanical stimuli of varying intensity. CP 55,940 (10 μg in 50 μl) or vehicle was applied directly to the spinal cord and responses to mechanical (von Prey monofilament) and heat stimuli were recorded 10 min after drug treatment. CP 55,940 alone did not alter responses to mechanical stimuli; however the enhanced responses to mechanical stimuli after injection of capsaicin into the receptive field were dose dependently attenuated in both HT and WDR neurons. Vehicle-treated neurons increased their response to 300.6 ± 52.1% of baseline after capsaicin, whereas CP 55,940-treated neurons responded at 153.0 ± 27.1% of baseline. The effects of CP 55,940 on sensitization to heat were less pronounced; however, CP 55,940 attenuated the capsaicin-evoked decrease in heat threshold in HT neurons. The attenuation by CP 55,940 of sensitization to mechanical stimuli was blocked by pretreatment of the spinal cord with the CB1 receptor antagonist, SR141716A. These studies demonstrate that cannabinoid application to the spinal cord prevents central sensitization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-997
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


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