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Keywords:

  • Calcium;
  • chronic daily headache analgesic abuse;
  • cyclic guanosine monophosphate;
  • nitric oxide;
  • platelets;
  • serotonin

An alteration in serotonin concentration has been found in patients with chronic headache caused by abuse of analgesic substances as well as an up-regulation of 5HT2 platelet receptors, which has been correlated with chronicization of the headache. In a previous study we demonstrated an increase in L-arginine/nitric oxide (NO) pathway activity in platelets from patients affected by migraine with or without aura, particularly during attacks. In the present research we assessed the variations in platelet L-arginine/NO pathway and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels in 32 patients affected by chronic daily headache (CDH) (8M, 24F, age range 34–50 years) both during and between attacks. In these same patients, the platelet aggregation to different collagen concentrations (0.3, 1, 3 μg/ml) was determined as well as the intracellular platelet calcium concentration using fluorescence polarization spectrometry. These parameters were compared with those of an age- and sex-matched control group (n = 25; n = 10, n = 15, age range 35–51 years). A reduction found in platelet aggregation response to each collagen concentration used (p<0.001) was coupled with an increased NO and cGMP production (NO: p<0.0001; cGMP: p<0.00l). This was accompanied by a significant increase in intracytosolic Ca2+ (p<0.000l) concentration and a reduced platelet serotonin content compared to those in control individuals (p<0.0002). Changes in the above platelet parameters were accentuated more in patients with analgesic abuse than in CDH patients with no drug abuse. These findings suggest the occurrence of an activation of cGMP-Ca2+ mediated events in CDH patients with analgesic abuse. This physiologic compensatory mechanism, which intervenes in overcoming the increase in cytosolic Ca2+ levels, is not as efficient at limiting serotonin depletion by platelet dense bodies. A similar depletion in the central serotoninergic pathway can be assumed in the same patients.