Dopaminergic mechanisms in periaqueductal gray-mediated antinociception

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As important as perceiving pain is the ability to modulate this perception in some contextual salient situations. The periaqueductal gray (PAG) is perhaps the most important site of endogenous pain modulation; however, little is known about dopaminergic mechanisms underlying PAG-mediated antinociception. In this study, we used a pharmacological approach to evaluate this subject. We found that µ-opioid receptor-induced antinociception (DAMGO, 0.3 μg) from PAG was blocked by the coadministration of either D1-like or D2-like dopaminergic antagonists (SCH23390, 2, 4, and 6 μg or raclopride, 2 and 4 μg, respectively) both in the tail-flick and in the mechanical paw-withdrawal test. A selective D2-like receptor agonist (piribedil, 6 and 12 μg into the PAG) induced antinociception in the mechanical paw-withdrawal test, but not in the tail-flick test. This effect was blocked by the coadministration of its selective antagonist (raclopride 4 μg), as well as by either a GABAA agonist (muscimol, 0.1 μg) or an opioid receptor antagonist (naloxone, 0.5 μg). A selective D1-like receptor agonist (SKF38393, 1, 5, and 10 μg into the PAG) induced a poor and transient antinociceptive effect, but when combined with piribedil, a potentiated antinociceptive effect emerged. None of these treatments affected locomotion in the open-field test. These findings suggest that µ-opioid antinociception from the PAG depends on dopamine acting on both D1-like and D2-like receptors. Selective activation of PAG D2-like receptors induces antinociception mediated by supraspinal mechanisms dependent on inhibition of GABAA and activation of opioid neurotransmission.

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