Enhanced antinociception by nicotinic receptor agonist epibatidine and adrenal medullary transplants in the spinal subarachnoid space

Alberto J. Caban, Aldric T. Hama, Jeung Woon Lee, Jacqueline Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Adrenal medullary transplants in the spinal subarachnoid space can reduce nociception, via the release of catecholamines and other analgesic substances, and this may be enhanced by stimulation of transplanted chromaffin cell surface nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). In addition, spinal nAChRs have been implicated in modulating nociception and can interact synergistically with α-adrenergic agents. Thus, enhanced antinociception by potent nAChR agonists such as frog skin derivative epibatidine in adrenal-transplanted animals could potentially occur via multiple mechanisms, including nicotinic-α-adrenergic synergy and stimulation of chromaffin cell nicotinic receptors. In order to test this, male Sprague-Dawley rats were implanted with intrathecal catheters and either adrenal medullary or control striated muscle transplants in the spinal subarachnoid space at the lumbar enlargement. Animals were tested for nociceptive responses before and after intrathecal injection of several doses of epibatidine using acute analgesiometric tests (tail flick, paw pressure) and the formalin test. After adrenal medullary, but not control, transplantation, nociceptive thresholds to acute noxious stimuli were slightly but consistently elevated, and phase 2 formalin responses decreased. Following intrathecal injection of epibatidine, acute nociceptive response latencies were modestly elevated and phase 2 formalin flinches modestly suppressed in control animals, but only at the highest dose test, with some attendant motor side-effects. In contrast, in adrenal medullary-transplanted animals, epibatidine elevated responses to acute noxious stimuli and markedly suppressed phase 2 formalin responses in a dose-related fashion. The enhanced antinociceptive effect following epibatidine was attenuated with either nAChR antagonist mecamylamine or α-adrenergic receptor antagonist phentolamine. The current results demonstrate that intrathecal injection of the nAChR ligand epibatidine can produce significant antinociception in adrenal-transplanted rats in both acute and tonic nociceptive tests and suggest that the use of nicotinic agents in combination with adrenal medullary transplantation could provide maximal therapeutic benefit by synergistically improving antinociception while avoiding the detrimental side-effects of these agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Analgesia
  • Antinociception
  • Chromaffin cells
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR)
  • Spinal cord
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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