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Previous studies indicate that the astroglial glutamate-glutamine shuttle may be involved in acute pulpal inflammatory pain by influencing central sensitization induced in nociceptive neurons in the trigeminal subnucleus caudalis [the medullary dorsal horn (MDH)] by application of an inflammatory irritant to the rat tooth pulp. The aim of this study was to test if intrathecal application to the rat medulla of the astroglial glutamine synthetase inhibitor methionine sulfoximine (MSO) can influence the central sensitization of MDH nociceptive neurons and the animal's associated behaviour that are manifested in a model of chronic pulpitis pain induced by exposure of a mandibular molar pulp. This model was found to be associated with nocifensive behaviour and enhanced reflex activity evoked by mechanical stimulation of the rat's facial skin and with immunocytochemical evidence of astroglial activation in the MDH. These features were apparent for up to 28 days post-operatively. During this post-operative period, the nocifensive behaviour and enhanced reflex activity were significantly attenuated by intrathecal application of MSO (5 μL, 10 mM) but not by vehicle application. In electrophysiological recordings of nociceptive neuronal activity in the MDH, central sensitization was also evident in pulp-exposed rats but not in intact rats and could be significantly attenuated by MSO application but not by vehicle application. These behavioural and neuronal findings suggest that the astroglial glutamate-glutamine shuttle is responsible for the maintenance of inflammation-induced nocifensive behavioural changes and the accompanying central sensitization in MDH nociceptive neurons in this chronic pulpitis pain model. © 2011 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2011 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Y Tsuboi, K Iwata, J O Dostrovsky, C Y Chiang, B J Sessle, J W Hu. Modulation of astroglial glutamine synthetase activity affects nociceptive behaviour and central sensitization of medullary dorsal horn nociceptive neurons in a rat model of chronic pulpitis. The European journal of neuroscience. 2011 Jul;34(2):292-302

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PMID: 21707791

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