Effects of peripheral nerve injury on alpha-2A and alpha-2C adrenergic receptor immunoreactivity in the rat spinal cord

L. S. Stone, L. Vulchanova, M. S. Riedl, J. Wang, F. G. Williams, G. L. Wilcox, R. Elde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Neuropathic pain resulting from peripheral nerve injury can often be relieved by administration of α-adrenergic receptor antagonists. Tonic activation of α-adrenergic receptors may therefore facilitate the hyperalgesia and allodynia associated with neuropathic pain. It is currently unclear whether α(2A)- or α(2C)-adrenergic receptor subtypes are involved in the pro-nociceptive actions of α-adrenergic receptors under neuropathic conditions. We therefore investigated the effects of peripheral nerve injury on the expression of these subtypes in rat spinal cord using immunohistochemical techniques. In addition, neuropeptide Y immunoreactivity was examined as an internal control because it has previously been shown to be up-regulated following nerve injury. We observed a decrease in α(2A)-adrenergic receptor immunoreactivity in the spinal cord ipsilateral to three models of neuropathic pain: complete sciatic nerve transection, chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve and L5/L6 spinal nerve ligation. The extent of this down-regulation was significantly correlated with the magnitude of injury-induced changes in mechanical sensitivity. In contrast, α(2C)-adrenergic receptor immunoreactivity was only increased in the spinal nerve ligation model; these increases did not correlate with changes in mechanical sensitivity. Neuropeptide Y immunoreactivity was up-regulated in all models examined. Increased expression of neuropeptide Y correlated with changes in mechanical sensitivity.The decrease in α(2A)-adrenergic receptor immunoreactivity and the lack of consistent changes in α(2C)-adrenergic receptor immunoreactivity suggest that neither of these receptor subtypes is likely to be responsible for the abnormal adrenergic sensitivity observed following nerve injury. On the contrary, the decrease in α(2A)-adrenergic receptor immunoreactivity following nerve injury may result in an attenuation of the influence of descending inhibitory noradrenergic input into the spinal cord resulting in increased excitatory transmitter release following peripheral stimuli. Copyright (C) 1999 IBRO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1399-1407
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1999


  • Immunohistochemistry
  • NPY
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Peripheral nerve injury
  • Spinal cord
  • α-adrenergic receptor


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