Differential roles of neuronal and endothelial nitric oxide synthases during carrageenan-induced inflammatory hyperalgesia

F. Tao, Y. X. Tao, C. Zhao, S. Doré, W. J. Liaw, S. N. Raja, R. A. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The present study investigated the role of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) in carrageenan-induced inflammatory pain by combining genomic and pharmacological strategies. Intrathecal injection of the nNOS inhibitor 7-nitroindazole dose-dependently inhibited carrageenan-induced thermal hyperalgesia in both early and late phases in wild-type mice. However in nNOS knockout mice, carrageenan-induced thermal hyperalgesia remained intact in the early phase but was reduced in the late phase. Spinal Ca 2+-dependent nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity in nNOS knockout mice was significantly lower than that in wild-type mice. Following carrageenan injection, although the spinal Ca 2+-dependent NOS activity in both wild-type and knockout mice increased, the enzyme activity in nNOS knockout mice reached a level similar to that in wild-type mice. On the other hand, no significant difference in spinal Ca 2+-independent NOS activity was noted between wild-type and nNOS knockout mice before and after carrageenan injection. Furthermore, intrathecal administration of the endothelial NOS (eNOS) inhibitor l-N 5-(1-iminoethyl)-ornithinein nNOS knockout mice inhibited the thermal hyperalgesia in both early and late phases, though this inhibitor had no effect in wild-type mice. Meanwhile, Western blot showed that eNOS expression in the spinal cord of nNOS knockout mice was up-regulated compared with wild-type mice; immunohistochemical staining showed that the spinal eNOS was mainly distributed in superficial laminae of the dorsal horn. Finally, double staining with confocal analysis showed that the enhanced spinal eNOS was expressed in astrocytes, but not in neurons. Our current results indicate that nNOS plays different roles in the two phases of carrageenan-induced inflammatory pain. In this model, enhanced spinal eNOS appears to compensate for the role of nNOS in nNOS knockout mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-430
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • carrageenan
  • central sensitization
  • intrathecal injection
  • nitric oxide synthase
  • peripheral inflammation
  • thermal hyperalgesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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