J Chem Neuroanat, Jul 2020

Alteration of Glycinergic Receptor Expression in Lumbar Spinal Motoneurons Is Involved in the Mechanisms Underlying Spasticity After Spinal Cord Injury

Sadlaoud Karina, Loubna Khalki, Fredéric Brocard, Laurent Vinay, Pascale Boulenguez, Hélène Bras


Spasticity is a disabling motor disorder affecting 70% of people with brain and spinal cord injury. The rate-dependent depression (RDD) of the H reflex is the only electrophysiological measurement correlated with the degree of spasticity assessed clinically in spastic patients. Several lines of evidence suggest that the mechanism underlying the H reflex RDD depends on the strength of synaptic inhibition through GABAA (GABAAR) and glycine receptors (GlyR). In adult rats with spinal cord transection (SCT), we studied the time course of the expression of GABAAR and GlyR at the membrane of retrogradely identified Gastrocnemius and Tibialis anterior motoneurons (MNs) 3, 8 and 16 weeks after injury, and measured the RDD of the H reflex at similar post lesion times. Three weeks after SCT, a significant decrease in the expression of GABAA and GlyR was observed compared to intact rats, and the H-reflex RDD was much less pronounced than in controls. Eight weeks after SCT, GlyR values returned to normal. Simultaneously, we observed a tendency to recover normal RDD of the H reflex at higher frequencies. We tested whether an anti-inflammatory treatment using methylprednisolone performed immediately after SCT could prevent alterations in GABAA/glycine receptors and/or the development of spasticity observed 3 weeks after injury. This treatment restored control levels of GlyR but not the expression of GABAAR, and it completely prevented the attenuation of RDD. These data strongly suggest that alteration of glycinergic inhibition of lumbar MNs is involved in the mechanisms underlying spasticity after SCI.


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