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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 Feb 2019 - 22 Feb 2019

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2019 Jun

Neural Regen Res



The hypothalamic-spinal dopaminergic system: a target for pain modulation.


Puopolo M
Neural Regen Res. 2019 Jun; 14(6):925-930.
PMID: 30761995.


Nociceptive signals conveyed to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord by primary nociceptors are subject to extensive modulation by local neurons and by supraspinal descending pathways to the spinal cord before being relayed to higher brain centers. Descending modulatory pathways to the spinal cord comprise, among others, noradrenergic, serotonergic, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic, and dopaminergic fibers. The contributions of noradrenaline, serotonin, and GABA to pain modulation have been extensively investigated. In contrast, the contributions of dopamine to pain modulation remain poorly understood. The focus of this review is to summarize the current knowledge of the contributions of dopamine to pain modulation. Hypothalamic A11 dopaminergic neurons project to all levels of the spinal cord and provide the main source of spinal dopamine. Dopamine receptors are expressed in primary nociceptors as well as in spinal neurons located in different laminae in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, suggesting that dopamine can modulate pain signals by acting at both presynaptic and postsynaptic targets. Here, I will review the literature on the effects of dopamine and dopamine receptor agonists/antagonists on the excitability of primary nociceptors, the effects of dopamine on the synaptic transmission between primary nociceptors and dorsal horn neurons, and the effects of dopamine on pain in rodents. Published data support both anti-nociceptive effects of dopamine mediated by D2-like receptors and pro-nociceptive effects mediated by D1-like receptors.