Action of intrathecal capsaicin and its structural analogues on the content and release of spinal substance P: Selectivity of action and relationship to analgesia

Khem Jhamandas, T. L. Yaksh, G. Harty, J. Szolcsanyi, V. L.W. Go

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Intrathecal injections of capsaicin (CAP) and 4 other homovanillic acid (HMV) derivatives related to the structure of CAP were carried out. Capsaicin, 1-nonenoylvanillylamide (NVA), HMV-dodecylamide (DCA) (but not HMV-cyclohexylamide (CHA) or HMV-hexadecylamide (HDC)) reduced the spinal content of substance P (SP), as measured by radioimmunoassay (RIA), and increased the tail-flick latency. Similar injection of kainic acid and piperine reduced levels of SP but failed to affect the tail-flick latency. None of the agents used affected spinal levels of cholecystokinin (CCK) or vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) as measured by RIA. In experiments using in vivo superfusion of the rat spinal cord, CAP, DCA and NVA were found to stimulate release of SP. Capsaicin had no effect on the levels of CCK or VIP immunoreactivity in the spinal superfusate. A tachyphylaxis to the effect of CAP and DCA on spinal SP release was demonstrated. Pretreatment with either agent blocked the releasing effect of the second. Pretreatment with an inactive analogue (HDC) had no effect on the subsequent activity of CAP. Kainic acid and piperine did not induce release of SP from the spinal cord. The relative selectivity of spinally administered capsaicinoids with regard to their effects on the content and release of peptides known to be contained in primary afferents and the presence of a similar structure-activity relationship for depletion and release of SP, desentization and antinociception suggest the presence of a specific receptor site associated with a specific population of primary afferents through which pain information may pass. Whether SP is an 'afferent pain transmitter' is not clear, but at the least, it appears to serve as a marker for a population of afferents acted upon by spinally administered capsaicinoids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 23 1984



  • capsaicin
  • homovanillic acid analogues
  • spinal substance P

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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