Intracellular recordings were made from rat dorsal horn neurons in the in vitro slice preparation to study the actions of cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cyclic AMP). In the presence of TTX, bath application of the membrane permeable analogue of cyclic AMP, 8-Br cyclic AMP (25-100 microM) caused a small depolarization of the resting membrane potential accompanied by a variable change in membrane input resistance. In addition, 8-Br cyclic AMP caused a long-lasting increase in the spontaneous synaptic activity and the amplitude of presumed monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic potentials evoked in the substantia gelatinosa neurons by orthodromic stimulation of a lumbar dorsal root. When the fast voltage-sensitive Na conductance was blocked by TTX, 8-Br cyclic AMP enhanced in a reversible manner, the depolarizing responses of a proportion of dorsal horn neurons to N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA), alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA), quisqualic acid (QA) and kainic acid (KA). The effects of 8-Br cyclic AMP on the resting membrane potential and the NMDA response of dorsal horn neurons were mimicked by reducing phosphodiesterase activity with bath application of 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine, but not by cyclic AMP applied extracellularly. Moreover, we have found that intracellular application of a protein inhibitor of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase (PKI) into dorsal horn neurons prevents the 8-Br cyclic AMP-induced potentiation of the NMDA response of these cells. These results suggest that in the rat spinal dorsal horn the activation of the adenylate cyclase-cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase system may be involved in the enhancement of the sensitivity of postsynaptic excitatory amino acid (NMDA, AMPA, KA) receptors and modulation of primary afferent neurotransmission, including nociception.
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