To date, the exact role of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in inflammatory pain remains controversial. In the present study, we combined a pharmacological strategy (using a selective iNOS inhibitor) with a genomic strategy (using mice lacking the iNOS gene) to address the function of iNOS in the central mechanism of carrageenan-induced persistent inflammatory pain. In the wild type mice, intrathecal administration of L-N-(1-iminoethyl)-lysine, a selective iNOS inhibitor, significantly inhibited thermal hyperalgesia in the late phase but not in the early phase of carrageenan inflammation. Moreover, iNOS mRNA expression in the lumbar enlargement segments of the spinal cord was dramatically induced at 24 h (late phase) after injection of carrageenan into a hind paw. Interestingly, targeted disruption of iNOS gene did not affect carrageenan-induced thermal hyperalgesia in either the early (2-6 h) or late phase. In the lumbar enlargement segments of iNOS knockout mice, nitric oxide synthase (NOS) enzyme activity remained at a similar level to that of the wild type mice at 24 h after carrageenan injection. We found that intrathecal administration of 7-nitroindazole (a selective neuronal NOS inhibitor), but not L-N-(1-iminoethyl)-ornithine (a selective endothelial NOS inhibitor), significantly reduced carrageenan-induced thermal hyperalgesia in both the early phase and the late phase in iNOS knockout mice. We also found that expression of neuronal NOS but not endothelial NOS in the lumbar enlargement segments was significantly increased in iNOS knockout mice compared with wild type mice at 24 h after carrageenan injection. Our results indicate that neuronal NOS might compensate for the function of iNOS in the late phase of carrageenan-induced inflammatory pain in iNOS knockout mice. This suggests that iNOS may be sufficient, but not essential, for the late phase of the carrageenan-induced thermal hyperalgesia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes