Adrenergic excitation of cutaneous pain receptors induced by peripheral nerve injury

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Science  29 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 5001, pp. 1608-1610
DOI: 10.1126/science.2011742


The mechanisms by which peripheral nerve injuries sometimes lead to causalgia, aberrant burning pain peripheral to the site of nerve damage, are uncertain, although the sympathetic nervous system is known to be involved. Whether such syndromes could be the result of the development of responsiveness by some cutaneous pain receptors (C-fiber nociceptors) to sympathetic efferent activity as a consequence of the nerve injury was tested in an animal model. After nerve damage but not in its absence, sympathetic stimulation and norepinephrine were excitatory for a subset of skin C-fiber nociceptors and enhanced the responsiveness of these nociceptors to tissue-damaging stimulation. These effects were demonstratable within days after nerve lesions, occurred at the cutaneous receptive terminal region, were manifest in sensory fibers that had not degenerated after the injury, and were mediated by alpha 2-adrenergic-like receptors.

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