The intrathecal administration of capsaicin, a homovanillylamide derivative, has been demonstrated to cause analgesia in response to thermal stimuli. This analgesia has been correlated with a profound depletion of spinal substance P, a putative primary afferent transmitter. We studied the effects of capsaicin, a series of capsaicin analogues, piperine and kainic acid on the immunohistochemical staining of substance P, cholecystokinin, somatostatin, methionine-enkephalin and serotonin. Capsaicin and an analogue 1-nonenoyl-vanillylamide significantly elevated the tail flick latency and when the spinal cords of the rats were analyzed immunohistochemically, a profound depletion of substance P and cholecystokinin was observed. The spinal somatostatin-immunoreactivity of these rats was slightly reduced. Piperine also depleted substance P and reduced somatostatin staining but did not alter the staining intensity or density of cholecystokinin, methionine-enkephalin or serotonin. Kainate-depleted methionine-enkephalin but did not alter any other neuropeptides studied or serotonin. These results may indicate a link between capsaicin-induced analgesia and the concomitant depletion of cholecystokinin and substance P.
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