Mechanisms of the Effects of Adrenocorticotropic Hormone on Pain Sensitivity in Rats

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Experiments on anaesthetized male Sprague-Dawley rats were performed to study the effects of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) on pain sensitivity. Systemic administration of ACTH to animals with normal hormone production induced rapidly developing (starting at 3 min) and prolonged (30 min) increases in pain response thresholds. Blockade of opiate receptors led to suppression of the initial stage of the analgesic effect of ACTH: the response was seen only from 15 to 30 min. In animals with deficient glucocorticoid production, the duration of the analgesic action of ACTH decreased to 15 min. Analgesia was completely eliminated by the combination of suppression of glucocorticoid production and blockade of opiate receptors. The analgesic effect of ACTH was mediated by two mechanisms: 1) a rapidly-acting (from 3 to 15 min) mechanism associated with opiate receptors and not related to glucocorticoids, and 2) a delayed (from 15 to 30 min) mechanism associated with glucocorticoids but not opiate receptors.

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