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Effects of Chronic Administration of Amitriptyline, Gabapentin and Minocycline on Spinal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Expression and Neuropathic Pain Behavior in a Rat Chronic Constriction Injury Model
  1. Pascal Vanelderen, MD*,,,
  2. Tom Rouwette, PhD,,
  3. Tamás Kozicz, MD, PhD,
  4. René Heylen, MD, PhD*,
  5. Jan Van Zundert, MD, PhD*,
  6. Eric W. Roubos, PhD and
  7. Kris Vissers, MD, PhD
  1. *Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care, Emergency Care and Pain Therapy, Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg, Genk, Belgium; and †Department of Cellular Animal Physiology, Faculty of Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, and ‡Department of Anesthesiology, Pain and Palliative Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
  1. Address correspondence to: Pascal Vanelderen, MD, Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg, Campus A. Dumont, Stalenstraat 2, 3600 Genk, Belgium (e-mail: pascal.vanelderen{at}


Background In animal models of neuropathic pain (NP), promising results have been reported with the administration of minocycline, possibly through inhibition of spinal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression. No data are available on the effect of amitriptyline and gabapentin on spinal BDNF expression. If the mechanism of action of the latter drugs does not involve brain-derived NP inhibition, further clinical research in BDNF is warranted.

Methods In this placebo-controlled study, we investigated the effects of amitriptyline (5 mg/kg), gabapentin (50 mg/kg), and minocycline (25 mg/kg) twice a day on NP behavior in a sciatic chronic constriction injury (CCI) rat model. Drug treatment started 7 days after CCI and lasted 14 days. At postoperative day 21, spinal BDNF expression in laminae I and II was quantified using immunocytochemistry.

Results Sciatic CCI resulted in NP behavior throughout the duration of the experiment in the placebo group. When administered for 2 weeks, minocycline (P ⩽ 0.001) and amitriptyline (P ⩽ 0.05), but not gabapentin, reduced thermal hyperalgesia. None of these drugs reduced mechanical allodynia. As opposed to amitriptyline and gabapentin, 2 weeks of treatment with minocycline reduced brain-derived, neurotrophic factor immunoreactivity (P ⩽ 0.05) in the ipsilateral dorsal horn.

Conclusions Minocycline and amitriptyline both reduce NP behavior in a sciatic CCI rat model, but only minocycline reduces spinal BDNF, indicating different modes of action of these 2 drugs. The observed actions of minocycline closely fit the clinical needs for the treatment of NP.

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  • No funding sources were provided for this study.

    The authors declare no conflict of interest.

    Joseph M. Neal, MD, served as editor-in-chief for this manuscript.