Chronic pain is a major health issue and most patients suffer from spontaneous pain. Previous studies suggest that Huperzine A (Hup A), an alkaloid isolated from the Chinese herb Huperzia serrata, is a potent analgesic with few side effects. However, whether it alleviates spontaneous pain is unclear. We evaluated the effects of Hup A on spontaneous pain in mice using the conditioned place preference (CPP) behavioral assay and found that application of Hup A attenuated the mechanical allodynia induced by peripheral nerve injury or inflammation. This effect was blocked by atropine. However, clonidine but not Hup A induced preference for the drug-paired chamber in CPP. The same effects occurred when Hup A was infused into the anterior cingulate cortex. Furthermore, ambenonium chloride, a competitive inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase, also increased the paw-withdrawal threshold but failed to induce place preference in CPP. Therefore, our data suggest that acetylcholinesterase in both the peripheral and central nervous systems is involved in the regulation of mechanical allodynia but not the spontaneous pain.
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