Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A study comparing the actions of gabapentin and pregabalin on the electrophysiological properties of cultured DRG neurones from neonatal rats

David McClelland, Rhian M Evans, Louise Barkworth, Duncan J Martin and Roderick H Scott*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Medical Sciences, The University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2RL, Scotland, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Pharmacology 2004, 4:14  doi:10.1186/1471-2210-4-14

Published: 4 August 2004

Abstract

Background

Gabapentin and pregabalin have wide-ranging therapeutic actions, and are structurally related to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Gabapentin, pregablin and GABA can all modulate voltage-activated Ca2+ channels. In this study we have used whole cell patch clamp recording and fura-2 Ca2+ imaging to characterise the actions of pregabalin on the electrophysiological properties of cultured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurones from neonatal rats. The aims of this study were to determine whether pregabalin and gabapentin had additive inhibitory effects on high voltage-activated Ca2+ channels, evaluate whether the actions of pregabalin were dependent on GABA receptors and characterise the actions of pregabalin on voltage-activated potassium currents.

Results

Pregabalin (25 nM – 2.5 μM) inhibited 20–30% of the high voltage-activated Ca2+ current in cultured DRG neurones. The residual Ca2+ current recorded in the presence of pregabalin was sensitive to the L-type Ca2+ channel modulator, Bay K8644. Saturating concentrations of gabapentin failed to have additive effects when applied with pregabalin, indicating that these two compounds act on the same type(s) of voltage-activated Ca2+ channels but the majority of Ca2+ current was resistant to both drugs. The continual application of GABA, the GABAB receptor antagonist CGP52432, or intracellular photorelease of GTP-γ-S had no effect on pregabalin-induced inhibition of Ca2+ currents. Although clear inhibition of Ca2+ influx was produced by pregabalin in a population of small neurones, a significant population of larger neurones showed enhanced Ca2+ influx in response to pregabalin. The enhanced Ca2+ influx evoked by pregabalin was mimicked by partial block of K+ conductances with tetraethylammonium.

Pregabalin produced biphasic effects on voltage-activated K+ currents, the inhibitory effect of pregabalin was prevented with apamin. The delayed enhancement of K+ currents was attenuated by pertussis toxin and by intracellular application of a (Rp)-analogue of cAMP.

Conclusions

Pregabalin reduces excitatory properties of cultured DRG neurones by modulating voltage-activated Ca2+ and K+ channels. The pharmacological activity of pregabalin is similar but not identical to that of gabapentin. The actions of pregabalin may involve both extracellular and intracellular drug target sites and modulation of a variety of neuronal conductances, by direct interactions, and through intracellular signalling involving protein kinase A.