ERK integrates PKA and PKC signaling in superficial dorsal horn neurons. II. Modulation of neuronal excitability

Hui Juan Hu, Robert W. Gereau IV

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Protein kinases belonging to the protein kinase A (PKA), protein kinase C (PKC), and extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) families have been identified as key players in modulating nociception at the level of the spinal cord dorsal horn, yet little is known about the effects of these kinases on membrane properties of the dorsal horn neurons. PKA, PKC, and ERK exert inhibitory effects on transient potassium currents (A-type currents or I A) in mouse superficial dorsal horn neurons (Hu et al. 2003). Here we aimed to determine the effects of these kinases on action potential firing and membrane properties of these neurons to evaluate the impact of the modulation of IA (and other conductances) in these neurons. We found that activating PKC and PKA has dramatic effects on action potential firing, reflecting an increase in the excitability of superficial dorsal horn neurons. In addition, we found that inhibitors of both PKC and ERK signaling decrease the excitability of dorsal horn neurons, suggesting that these kinases exert a tonic excitation of these cells. Consistent with our findings that these kinases inhibit A-type currents, we found that PKA, PKC, and ERK act to shorten the first-spike latency after depolarization induced by current injection. In addition, activation of these kinases increases spike frequency and action potential amplitude of dorsal horn neurons. Interestingly, we found that the effects of PKA and PKC activators are blocked by inhibitors of ERK signaling, suggesting that PKA and PKC may exert their actions by activation of ERKs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1680-1688
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003

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