Mitochondrial ATP synthase has multiple interdependent biological functions in neurons. Among them, ATP generation and regulation are the most important. The present study investigated whether the expression of mitochondrial ATP synthase correlates with symptoms of neuropathic pain in adult rats after axotomy, and whether intrathecal ATP administration is therapeutic in these neuropathic rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received left sciatic nerve transection (axotomy) and were randomly designated to a control (sham-operated) group, a neuropathic pain group (axotomy), a neuropathic pain and intrathecal sterile saline group, and a neuropathic pain and intrathecal ATP group. The thermal and mechanical sensitivity tests were performed at 1, 3, 5, and 7 days after axotomy. Left L4-L5 dorsal root ganglions (DRGs) were harvested to assess mitochondrial ATP synthase by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. After nerve injury, the expression of mitochondrial ATP synthase was decreased in protein extracts and was found mainly in C-fiber and A-δ fiber neurons of the DRGs. The decreased expression of mitochondrial ATP synthase and its subcellular localization were related to thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia. Administration of intrathecal ATP significantly attenuated thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity throughout the experimental period, which suggests its potential role in the treatment of neuropathic pain.
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