Levo-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP), an active ingredient of Corydalis yanhusuo, has been reported to be a partial agonist for dopamine D1 receptors (D1R) and an antagonist for D2R. Although it has been safely used clinically in China for decades as an analgesic with sedative/hypnotic properties, there are few studies that address the mechanisms by which l-THP exerts its beneficial effects in chronic pain-induced sleep disturbance.
To investigate the effects and mechanisms of l-THP on sleep disturbance in a neuropathic pain-like condition.
A mouse model of chronic neuropathic pain induced by partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSNL) was employed. The antinociceptive and hypnotic effects of l-THP were evaluated by measurement of mechanical allodynia, thermal hyperalgesia, and electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings in PSNL mice. Pharmacological approaches and c-Fos expression were used to clarify the mechanisms of l-THP.
Intraperitoneal injection of l-THP at 5 and 10 mg/kg not only significantly increased the mechanical threshold by 134.4% and 174.8%, and prolonged the thermal latency by 49.4% and 69.2%, but also increased non-rapid eye movement sleep by 17.5% and 29.6%, and decreased sleep fragmentation in PSNL mice, compared with the vehicle control. Moreover, the antinociceptive effect of l-THP was prevented by D1R antagonist SCH23390 or D2R agonist quinpirole; meanwhile, the hypnotic effect of l-THP was blocked by quinpirole rather than by SCH23390. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated that l-THP inhibited c-Fos overexpression induced by PSNL in the cingulate cortex and the periaqueductal gray.
These findings indicated that l-THP exerted analgesic effects by agonism D1R and antagonism D2R, and the antagonism of D2R mediated the hypnotic effect of l-THP in PSNL mice.