Department of Anesthesiology, Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 200 Lothrop St. Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA; Department of Physiology, University of Kentucky School of Medicine, 800 Rose, St. Lexington, KY 40536-0298, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Acute inflammation induces sensitization of nociceptive neurons and triggers the accumulation of calcium permeable (CP) α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid receptors (AMPARs) in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. This coincides with behavioral signs of acute inflammatory pain, but whether CP-AMPARs contribute to chronic pain remains unclear. To evaluate this question, we first constructed current-voltage (IV) curves of C-fiber stimulus-evoked, AMPAR-mediated EPSCs in lamina II to test for inward rectification, a key characteristic of CP-AMPARs. We found that the intraplantar injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) induced an inward rectification at 3 d that persisted to 21 d after injury. Furthermore, the CP- AMPAR antagonist IEM-1460 (50 μM) inhibited AMPAR-evoked Ca2+ transients 21d after injury but had no effect in uninflamed mice. We then used a model of long-lasting vulnerability for chronic pain that is determined by the balance between latent central sensitization (LCS) and mu opioid receptor constitutive activity (MORCA). When administered 21 d after the intraplantar injection of CFA, intrathecal administration of the MORCA inverse agonist naltrexone (NTX, 1 μg, i.t.) reinstated mechanical hypersensitivity, and superfusion of spinal cord slices with NTX (10 μM) increased the peak amplitude of AMPAR-evoked Ca2+ transients in lamina II neurons. The CP-AMPAR antagonist naspm (0-10 nmol, i.t.) inhibited these NTX-induced increases in mechanical hypersensitivity. NTX had no effect in uninflamed mice. Subsequent western blot analysis of the postsynaptic density membrane fraction from lumbar dorsal horn revealed that CFA increased GluA1 expression at 2 d and GluA4 expression at both 2 and 21 d post-injury, indicating that not just the GluA1 subunit, but also the GluA4 subunit, contributes to the expression of CP-AMPARs and synaptic strength during hyperalgesia. GluA2 expression increased at 21 d, an unexpected result that requires further study. We conclude that after tissue injury, dorsal horn AMPARs retain a Ca2+ permeability that underlies LCS. Because of their effectiveness in reducing naltrexone-induced reinstatement of hyperalgesia and potentiation of AMPAR-evoked Ca2+ signals, CP-AMPAR inhibitors are a promising class of agents for the treatment of chronic inflammatory pain.