The NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 reduces capsaicin-induced c-fos expression within rat trigeminal nucleus caudalis

Dimos D. Mitsikostas, Margarita Sanchez Del Rio, Christian Waeber, Michael A. Moskowitz, F. Michael Cutrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


The effect of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist (5R,10S)-(+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]cyclo-hepten-5,10-imine hydrogen maleate (MK-801) was examined on c-fos-like immunoreactivity (c- fos-LI) in urethane-anesthetized Sprague-Dawley rats using a polyclonal antibody. C-fos, an indicator of neuronal activation, was assessed within the trigeminal nucleus caudalis (TNC), area postrema, lateral reticular and solitary tract nuclei 2 h after intracisternal injection of capsaicin. C- fos-positive cells were counted at three representative levels corresponding to obex, -2.05 mm and -6.45 mm in 18 tissue sections (50 μm). A weighted average was obtained reflecting total brainstem expression within lamina I, II of TNC using a recently validated method. Capsaicin (0.1, 1, 5, 10 and 15 nmol) caused a dose-dependent labeling of cells in lamina I, II at obex similar to that previously reported after intracisternal blood or carrageenin administration in rats and guinea pigs. MK-801 (0.3, 1 and 3 mg/kg) administered i.p. 30 min before capsaicin (5 nmol in 100 μl artificial CSF) reduced significantly and dose-dependently (12%, 36% and 47%, respectively) the c-fos-LI cells in TNC at each level from rostral to caudal but not in solitary tract, area postrema and lateral reticular nuclei, and for unexplained reasons, increased c-fos-LI within the inferior olive. These results suggest that NMDA receptors provide a potential therapeutic target for cephalic pain (e.g. migraine) due to trigeminovascular activation from meningeal afferents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-248
Number of pages10
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 1998


  • Inferior olive
  • MK-801
  • Migraine
  • N-Methyl-D-aspartate
  • Pain
  • Trigeminal nucleus caudalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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