The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Oxytocin modulates glutamatergic synaptic transmission between cultured neonatal spinal cord dorsal horn neurons.

PMID 9502799


The functional characteristics of binding sites for the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) detected by radioautography in laminae I and II of the dorsal horn (DH) and on cultured neonatal DH neurons were studied on the latter using perforated patch-clamp recordings. The neurons were identified by their spike discharge properties and on the basis of the presence of met-enkephalin-like and glutamate decarboxylase-like immunoreactivities. OT (100 nM) never induced any membrane current at a holding potential of -60 mV but increased the frequency of spontaneously occurring AMPA receptor-mediated EPSCs or the mean amplitude of electrically evoked EPSCs in a subset (35%) of neurons. The frequency of miniature EPSCs (m-EPSCs) recorded in the presence of 0.5 microM tetrodotoxin was also increased by OT (100 nM) without any change in their mean amplitude, indicating an action at a site close to the presynaptic terminal. The decay kinetics of any type of EPSC were never modified by OT. The effect of OT was reproduced by [Thr4, Gly7]-OT (100 nM), a selective OT receptor agonist, and blocked by d(CH2)5-[Tyr(Me)2,Thr4,Tyr-NH29]-ornithine vasotocin (100 nM), a specific OT receptor antagonist. Reducing the extracellular Ca2+ concentration from 2.5 to 0.3 mM in the presence of Cd2+ (100 microM) reversibly blocked the effect of OT on m-EPSCs. The OT receptors described here may represent the substrate for modulatory actions of descending hypothalamo-spinal OT-containing pathways on the nociceptive system.