Small conductance calcium activated potassium (SK) channel dependent and independent effects of riluzole on neuropathic pain-related amygdala activity and behaviors in rats

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Abstract

Background and purpose:

Chronic neuropathic pain is an important healthcare issue with significant emotional components. The amygdala is a brain region involved in pain and emotional-affective states and disorders. The central amygdala output nucleus (CeA) contains small-conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels that can control neuronal activity. A clinically available therapeutic, riluzole can activate SK channels and may have antinociceptive effects through a supraspinal action. We tested the hypothesis that riluzole inhibits neuropathic pain behaviors by inhibiting pain-related changes in CeA neurons, in part at least through SK channel activation.

Experimental approach:

Brain slice physiology and behavioral assays were done in adult Sprague Dawley rats. Audible and ultrasonic vocalizations and von Frey thresholds were measured in sham and neuropathic rats 4 weeks after left L5 spinal nerve ligation (SNL model). Whole cell patch-clamp recordings of regular firing CeA neurons in brain slices were used to measure synaptic transmission and neuronal excitability.

Key results:

In brain slices, riluzole increased the SK channel-mediated afterhyperpolarization and synaptic inhibition, but inhibited neuronal excitability through an SK channel independent action. SNL rats had increased vocalizations and decreased withdrawal thresholds compared to sham rats, and intra-CeA administration of riluzole inhibited vocalizations and depression-like behaviors but did not affect withdrawal thresholds. Systemic riluzole administration also inhibited these changes, demonstrating the clinical utility of this strategy. SK channel blockade in the CeA attenuated the inhibitory effects of systemic riluzole on vocalizations, confirming SK channel involvement in these effects.

Conclusions and implications:

The results suggest that riluzole has beneficial effects on neuropathic pain behaviors through SK channel dependent and independent mechanisms in the amygdala.

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