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Korean J Anesthesiol. 2019 Feb;72(1):60-67. English. Original Article.
Kim Y , Kwon SY , Jung HS , Park YJ , Kim YS , In JH , Choi JW , Kim JA , Joo JD .
Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, St. Vincent's Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Suwon, Korea.
Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.


The pain-relief properties of tricyclic antidepressants can be attributed to several actions. Recent observations suggest that adenosine is involved in the antinociceptive effect of amitriptyline. The A3 adenosine receptor (A3AR) is the only adenosine subtype overexpressed in inflammatory and cancer cells. This study was performed to investigate the role of A3AR in the anti-nociceptive effect of amitriptyline.


Spinal nerve-ligated neuropathic pain was induced by ligating the L5 and L6 spinal nerves of male Sprague-Dawley rats. The neuropathic rats were randomly assigned to one of the following three groups (8 per group): a neuropathic pain with normal saline group, a neuropathic pain with amitriptyline group, and a neuropathic pain with amitriptyline and 3-ethyl-5-benzyl- 2-methyl-4-phenylethynyl-6-phenyl-1,4-(±)-dihydropyridine-3,5-dicarboxylate (MRS) group. Amitriptyline or saline was administered intraperitoneally and 3-ethyl-5-benzyl-2-methyl-4-phenylethynyl-6-phenyl-1,4-(±)-dihydropyridine-3,5-dicarboxylate (MRS-1191), an A3AR antagonist, was injected subcutaneously immediately before amitriptyline administration. The level of extracellular signal-regulated kinase P44/42 (ERK1/2), cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB), and proinflammatory cytokines were assessed using immunoblotting or reverse-transciption polymerase chain reaction.


Amitriptyline increased the mechanical withdrawal threshold of the neuropathic rats. The level of phospho-ERK1/2 and phospho-CREB proteins, and proinflammatory cytokines produced by spinal nerve ligation were significantly reduced by amitriptyline administration. However, the use of MRS-1191 before amitriptyline administration not only reduced the threshold of mechanical allodynia, but also increased the signaling protein and proinflammatory cytokine levels, which were reduced by amitriptyline.


The results of this study suggest that the anti-nociceptive effect of amitriptyline involves the suppression of ERK1/2 and CREB signaling proteins, and A3AR activation also affects the alleviation of the inflammatory response.

Copyright © 2019. Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors.