Spinal mechanisms of NPY analgesia

Peter A. Smith, Timothy D. Moran, Fuad Abdulla, Kiranjeet K. Tumber, Bradley K. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


We review previously published data, and present some new data, indicating that spinal application of neuropeptide Y (NPY) reduces behavioral and neurophysiological signs of acute and chronic pain. In models of acute pain, early behavioral studies showed that spinal (intrathecal) administration of NPY and Y2 receptor agonists decrease thermal nociception. Subsequent neurophysiological studies indicated that Y2-mediated inhibition of excitatory neurotransmitter release from primary afferent terminals in the substantia gelatinosa may contribute to the antinociceptive actions of NPY. As with acute pain, NPY reduced behavioral signs of inflammatory pain such as mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia; however, receptor antagonist studies indicate an important contribution of spinal Y1 rather than Y2 receptors. Interestingly, Y1 agonists suppress inhibitory synaptic events in dorsal horn neurons (indeed, well known μ-opioid analgesic drugs produce similar cellular actions). To resolve the behavioral and neurophysiological data, we propose that NPY/Y1 inhibits the spinal release of inhibitory neurotransmitters (GABA and glycine) onto inhibitory neurons, e.g. disinhibition of pain inhibition, resulting in hyporeflexia. The above mechanisms of Y1- and Y2-mediated analgesia may also operate in the setting of peripheral nerve injury, and new data indicate that NPY dose-dependently inhibits behavioral signs of neuropathic pain. Indeed, neurophysiological studies indicate that Y2-mediated inhibition of Ca2+ channel currents in dorsal root ganglion neurons is actually increased after axotomy. We conclude that spinal delivery of Y1 agonists may be of use in the treatment of chronic inflammatory pain, and that the use of Y1 and Y2 agonists in neuropathic pain warrants further consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-474
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) grant no. MOP 13456 to PAS and grant nos. NS45954 and DA18732 to BKT. Preparation of the manuscript was facilitated by a visiting lecturer grant from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR). FA received an AHFMR postdoctoral fellowship. We thank Dr. Annette Beck Sickinger (University of Leipzig) for gifts of various NPY agonists and antagonists.


  • Dorsal horn
  • Inflammatory pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Substantia gelatinosa
  • Synaptic transmission


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