Cocaine and amphetamine regulated transcript (CART) peptides are widely distributed in the central nervous system and have been implicated in the regulation of several physiological functions including pain modulation. Involvement of CART peptides in nociception is based on behavioural studies. Dense plexus of CART-immunoreactive fibres was described in the superficial laminae of the rat and mouse spinal cords, which areas play a crucial role in pain related information processing.
The origin of CART-immunoreactive fibres, their neurochemical properties and postsynaptic targets as well as the effects of CART peptides at cellular level are studied in the superficial laminae of the rat spinal cord by combined methods of electrophysiology, pharmacology, fluorescent immunohistochemistry, as well as confocal and electronmicroscopy. Interactions between CART peptides and other neurotransmitters and opioids is also investigated.
The results to be obtained from our studies will help to understand the role of CART peptides in nociception. Identification of the interaction between CART peptides and opioids may help in developing new, opioid-based combined analgesics which are effective in lower doses, thus making reduction or elimination of opioid-tolerance and undesirable side effects possible.