Role of substance P in the modulation of C-fiber-evoked responses of spinal dorsal horn neurons

Dénes Budai, Alice A. Larson

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38 Scopus citations


Substance P (SP) as well as excitatory amino acids (EAAs) appear to be released in response to stimulation of primary afferent C-fibers. Activity at N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is essential for wind-up (the progressive potentiation of C-fiber-evoked responses of single neurons in response to an electrical stimulation), however, the role of SP in wind-up is unclear. To address this, the effects of iontophoretically applied CP-99,994 (a NK-1 receptor antagonist), SP and SP(1-7) (an N-terminal breakdown product of SP), were compared on responses of spinal dorsal horn wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons of the rat. Post-stimulus time histograms (PSTH) were summed over 12 responses to low frequency (0.5 Hz) electrical stimulation of the cutaneous receptive field. Changes in responses of dorsal horn neurons were evaluated by monitoring C-fiber input, wind-up, and the total number of spikes evoked by C-fiber activity in response to the 12 stimuli. The NK-1 receptor antagonist CP-99,994 significantly inhibited the total number of C-spikes and caused a significant reduction in wind-up without changing the C-fiber input, indicating the involvement of NK-1 receptors in wind-up. Application of SP led to an overall increase in the total number of C-fiber evoked responses of dorsal horn neurons and C-fiber input, however, wind-up, as defined, was significantly decreased following SP. In contrast, substance P(1-7) evoked a long-lasting increase in the total number of C-fiber-related spikes which was initially sustained by a transient increase in the input followed by a longer lasting increase in wind-up, an effect opposite that of CP-99,994. As NMDA activity has been previously shown to be inhibited and then potentiated by SP N-terminal activity over a similar time interval, the present data are consistent with the mediation of wind-up by NMDA and its modulation by SP N-terminal activity. Release of SP in response to noxious stimulation may, therefore, increase primary afferent C-fiber activity (input) whereas an accumulation of SP N-terminal metabolites appears to potentiate wind-up, perhaps via positive modulation of EAA activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-203
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 26 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIDA Grants RO1-04090 and RO1-00124 to A.A.L. We thank Kelley Kitto for his expert technical assistance and Dr. Katalin Kovacs for her input in the preparation of the manuscript.


  • CP-99,994
  • Iontophoresis
  • Nociception
  • Rat
  • Spinal cord
  • Substance P
  • Substance P(1-7)
  • Wind-up


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