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Substance P is released in the spinal cord in response to painful stimuli, but its role in nociceptive signaling remains unclear. When a conjugate of substance P and the ribosome-inactivating protein saporin was infused into the spinal cord, it was internalized and cytotoxic to lamina I spinal cord neurons that express the substance P receptor. This treatment left responses to mild noxious stimuli unchanged, but markedly attenuated responses to highly noxious stimuli and mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia. Thus, lamina I spinal cord neurons that express the substance P receptor play a pivotal role in the transmission of highly noxious stimuli and the maintenance of hyperalgesia.
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