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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 May 2024 - 17 May 2024

2024 May 14




Selective inhibition of A-fiber-mediated excitatory transmission underlies the analgesic effects of KCNQ channel opening in the spinal dorsal horn.


Oyama M, Watanabe S, Iwai T, Tanabe M


Neuronal voltage-gated KCNQ (Kv7) channels, expressed centrally and peripherally, mediate low-threshold and non-inactivating M-currents responsible for the control of tonic excitability of mammalian neurons. Pharmacological opening of KCNQ channels has been reported to generate analgesic effects in animal models of neuropathic pain. Here, we examined the possible involvement of central KCNQ channels in the analgesic effects of retigabine, a KCNQ channel opener. Behaviorally, intraperitoneally applied retigabine exerted analgesic effects on thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity in male mice developing neuropathic pain after partial sciatic nerve ligation, which was antagonized by the KCNQ channel blocker XE991 preadministered intraperitoneally and intrathecally. Intrathecally applied retigabine also exerted analgesic effects that were inhibited by intrathecally injected XE991. We then explored the synaptic mechanisms underlying the analgesic effects of retigabine in the spinal dorsal horn. Whole-cell recordings were made from dorsal horn neurons in spinal slices with attached dorsal roots from adult male mice developing neuropathic pain, and the effects of retigabine on miniature and afferent-evoked postsynaptic currents were examined. Retigabine reduced the amplitude of A-fiber-mediated EPSCs without affecting C-fiber-mediated excitatory synaptic transmission. A-fiber-mediated EPSCs remained unaltered by retigabine in the presence of XE991, consistently with the behavioral findings. The frequency and amplitude of mEPSCs were not affected by retigabine. Thus, opening of KCNQ channels in the central terminals of primary afferent A-fibers inhibits excitatory synaptic transmission in the spinal dorsal horn, most likely contributing to the analgesic effect of retigabine.