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Keywords:

  • arthritis;
  • inflammation;
  • NMDA receptors;
  • nociception;
  • hyperexcitability

In α-chloralose-anaesthetized, spinalized cats we examined the effects of NMDA antagonists on the discharges of 71 spinal neurons which had afferent input from the knee joint. These neurons were rendered hyperexcitable by acute arthritis in the knee induced by kaolin and carrageenan. They were located in the deep dorsal and ventral horn and some of them had ascending axons. The N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists ketamine and d-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (AP5), were administered ionophoretically, and ketamine was also administered intravenously. In some of the experiments the antagonists were tested against the agonists NMDA and quisqualate. The effects of the NMDA antagonists consisted of a significant reduction in the resting activity of neurons and/or the responses of the same neurons to mechanical stimulation of the inflamed knee. Intravenous ketamine was most effective in suppressing the resting and mechanically evoked activity in 25 of 26 neurons tested. Ionophoretically applied ketamine had a suppressive effect in 11 of 21 neurons, and AP5 decreased activity in 17 of 24 cells. The reduction in the resting and/or the mechanically evoked discharges was achieved with doses of the antagonists which suppressed the responses to NMDA but not those to quisqualate. These results suggest that NMDA receptors are involved in the enhanced responses and basal activity of spinal neurons induced by inflammation in the periphery.