Background: Emerging research seeking novel analgesic drugs focuses on agents targeting group-II metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu2 and mGlu3 receptors). N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) enhances the endogenous activation of mGlu2/3 receptors by activating the glial glutamate:cystine membrane exchanger. Here, we examined whether NAC inhibits nociceptive responses in humans and animals. We tested the effect of oral NAC (1.2 g) on thermal-pain thresholds and laser-evoked potentials in 10 healthy volunteers, according to a crossover, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, and the effect of NAC (100 mg/kg, i.p.) on the tail-flick response evoked by radiant heat stimulation in mice. Results: In healthy subjects, NAC treatment left thermal-pain thresholds unchanged, but significantly reduced pain ratings to laser stimuli and amplitudes of laser-evoked potentials. NAC induced significantly greater changes in these measures than placebo. In the tail-flick test, NAC strongly reduced the nocifensive reflex response to radiant heat. The action of NAC was abolished by the preferential mGlu2/3 receptor antagonist, LY341495 (1 mg/kg, i.p.). Conclusions: Our findings show for the first time that NAC inhibits nociceptive transmission in humans, and does the same in mice by activating mGlu2/3 receptors. These data lay the groundwork for investigating the therapeutic potential of NAC in patients with chronic pain.
- Laser evoked potentials
- mGlu2 receptor
- Neuropathic pain
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
- Molecular Medicine
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience