Propranolol treatment prevents chronic central sensitization induced by repeated dural stimulation

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Migraine is currently conceptualized as a chronic disease with episodic manifestations. In some patients, migraine attack frequency increases, leading to chronic migraine. Daily preventive therapy is initiated to decrease attack frequency. Propranolol, a first-line medication for migraine prophylaxis, reduces attack frequency in nearly 50% of patients receiving it. However, the mechanisms of its antimigraine action are unclear. We examined the effect of daily propranolol treatment (10 mg·kg−1 per os, 8 days) in a rat model of recurrent activation of dural nociceptors (repeated infusion of an inflammatory soup (IS) on the dura through a cannula every 2-3 days). Propranolol does not abort IS-induced acute cephalic mechanical allodynia but blocks the development of a chronic cutaneous hypersensitivity upon repeated IS injections. Furthermore, propranolol prevents (1) the elevated touch-evoked Fos expression within the trigeminocervical complex, (2) enhanced both spontaneous activity, and evoked responses of second-order trigeminovascular neurons, (3) elevated touch-evoked rostral ventromedial medulla and locus coeruleus Fos expression and (4) diffuse noxious inhibitory controls impairment, induced by repeated IS injections. Our results suggest that propranolol exerts its prophylactic action, at least in part, by blocking the chronic sensitization of descending controls of pain, arising from the rostral ventromedial medulla and locus coeruleus, and in turn preventing the maintenance of a state of facilitated trigeminovascular transmission within the trigeminocervical complex. Assessing changes in these brain areas has the potential to elucidate the mechanisms for migraine transformation and to reveal novel biological and molecular targets for specific migraine-preventive therapies.

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