Microinjection of neurotensin (NT) in the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) produces dose-dependent antinociception. The NTR1 (Neurotensin Receptor Subtype 1) may mediate part of this response, however definitive evidence is lacking, and the spinal mediators of NTR1-induced antinociception are unknown. In the present study, we used immunohistochemical techniques to show that the NTR1, but not the NTR2 is expressed by spinally projecting serotonergic neurons of the RVM. We also show that microinjection of NT or the NTR1-selective agonist PD149163 in the RVM both produce dose-dependent antinociception in the tail-flick test that is blocked by the NTR1-selective antagonist SR48692. The antinociception produced by NT or PD149163 is also blocked by intrathecal administration of the non-selective serotonergic receptor antagonist methysergide. The results of these experiments provide anatomical and behavioral evidence that activation of NTR1-expressing spinally projecting neurons in the RVM produces antinociception through release of serotonin in the spinal dorsal horn. These results support the conclusion that the NTR1 plays an important role in the central modulation of nociception.
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