The substantia gelatinosa (SG) of the spinal cord processes incoming painful information to ascending projection neurons. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings from SG spinal cord slices documented that in a low Ca2+/no Mg2+ (low X2+) external medium adenosine triphosphate (ATP)/dibenzoyl-ATP, Bz-ATP) caused inward current responses, much larger in amplitude than those recorded in a normal X2+-containing bath medium. The effect of Bz-ATP was antagonized by the selective P2X7 receptor antagonist A-438079. Neuronal, but not astrocytic Bz-ATP currents were strongly inhibited by a combination of the ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists AP-5 and CNQX. In fact, all neurons and some astrocytes responded to NMDA, AMPA, and muscimol with inward current, demonstrating the presence of the respective receptors. The reactive oxygen species H2O2 potentiated the effect of Bz-ATP at neurons but not at astrocytes. Hippocampal CA1 neurons exhibited a behavior similar to, but not identical with SG neurons. Although a combination of AP-5 and CNQX almost abolished the effect of Bz-ATP, H2O2 was inactive. A Bz-ATP-dependent and A-438079-antagonizable reactive oxygen species production in SG slices was proven by a microelectrode biosensor. Immunohistochemical investigations showed the colocalization of P2X7-immunoreactivity with microglial (Iba1), but not astrocytic (GFAP, S100β) or neuronal (MAP2) markers in the SG. It is concluded that SG astrocytes possess P2X7 receptors; their activation leads to the release of glutamate, which via NMDA- and AMPA receptor stimulation induces cationic current in the neighboring neurons. P2X7 receptors have a very low density under resting conditions but become functionally upregulated under pathological conditions.
- Amino acid transmitters
- P2X7 receptors
- Substantia gelatinosa
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience