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Neuroscience Homepage  > Faculty List > Wilcox
George L. Wilcox, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Neurotransmission of Pain

Dr. Wilcox and colleagues are engaged in research into the spinal neurotransmission of pain and mechanisms underlying hyperalgesia, analgesia and analgesic tolerance. Studies of both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in the rodent spinal cord apply behavioral, electrophysiological (both in vivo and in vitro),immunocytochemical and molecular techniques. Behavioral experiments define biologically relevant interactions, which are then examined at the cellular and molecular level using the more reductionist approaches. A key feature of research projects in this laboratory is open collaboration with laboratories located both here and at other universities. 

One major thrust of these investigations examines neurotransmitters thought to mediate major components of excitatory neurotransmission from primary afferent sensory fibers to secondary projection neurons in spinal cord dorsal horn: the excitatory amino acids (EAAs) like glutamate and the neurokinins like substance P. Intense or prolonged excitatory transmission via both these pathways is thought to evoke long term synaptic plasticity and excitotoxicity, which may underlie the development of some chronic pain states.  

A second major focus of work in the laboratory is the characterization of several inhibitory neurotransmitters and their receptors which together modulate this excitation. The neurotransmitters, enkephalin, serotonin and noradrenaline, inhibit various components of the incoming excitatory pain message in the dorsal horn via a number of inhibitory receptor subtypes. We are characterizing the interactions between these receptor subtypes and localizing them using transgenic mice, antisense oligonucleotides and immunocytochemical techniques. 

Finally, Dr. Wilcox facilitates access for Neuroscience students to high performance computing laboratories on campus - The Laboratory for Computational Science & Engineering and The Minnesota Supercomputer Institute (MSI). High performance computers and visualization are now finding applications in biological imaging, macromolecular modeling and neuronal simulation. A recent neuroscience graduate student developed a new method to optimize correspondence between neuronal simulations and experimental structure-function data.
Selected Publications
Vulchanova L., Schuster D.J., Belur L.R., Riedl M.S., Podetz-Pedersen K.M., Kitto K.F., Wilcox G.L., McIvor R.S., Fairbanks C.A. (2010)
Differential adeno-associated virus mediated gene transfer to sensory neurons following intrathecal delivery by direct lumbar puncture.
Mol. Pain 6: 31
El Ghazi I., Sheng W.S., Hu S., Reilly B.G., Lokensgard J.R., Rock R.B., Peterson P.K., Wilcox G.L. and Armitage I.M. (2010)
Changes in the NMR metabolic profile of human microglial cells exposed to lipopolysaccharide or morphine.
J. Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 5(4): 574-81
Overland A.C., Kitto K.F., Chabot-Doré A.J., Rothwell P.E., Fairbanks C.A., Stone L.S. and Wilcox G.L. (2009)
Protein kinase C mediates the synergistic interaction between agonists acting at alpha2-adrenergic and delta-opioid receptors in spinal cord.
J Neurosci. 29(42): 13264-73
Wade C.L., Eskridge L.L., Nguyen H.O., Kitto K.F., Stone L.S., Wilcox G. and Fairbanks C.A. (2009)
Immunoneutralization of agmatine sensitizes mice to micro-opioid receptor tolerance.
J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 331(2): 539-46
Fairbanks C.A., Kitto K.F., Nguyen H.O., Stone L.S. and Wilcox G.L. (2009)
Clonidine and dexmedetomidine produce antinociceptive synergy in mouse spinal cord.
Anesthesiology 110(3): 638-47
Riedl M.S., Schnell S.A., Overland A.C., Chabot-Doré A.J., Taylor A.M., Ribeiro-da-Silva A., Elde R.P., Wilcox G.L. and Stone L.S. (2009)
Coexpression of alpha 2A-adrenergic and delta-opioid receptors in substance P-containing terminals in rat dorsal horn.
J. Comp. Neurol. 513(4): 385-98
Schreiber K.L., Beitz A.J. and Wilcox G.L. (2008)
Activation of spinal microglia in a murine model of peripheral inflammation-induced, long-lasting contralateral allodynia.
Neurosci. Lett. 440(1): 63-67
Vit J.P., Ohara P.T., Tien D.A., Fike J.R., Eikmeier L., Beitz A., Wilcox G.L. and Jasmine, L. (2006)
The analgesic effect of low dose focal irradiation in a mouse model of bone cancer is associated with spinal changes in neuro-mediators of nociception.
Pain 120: 188-201
Wacnik P.W., Eikmeier L.J., Simone D.A., Wilcox G.L. and Beitz, A.J. (2005)
Nociceptive characteristics of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in naïve and tumor-bearing mice.
Neuroscience 132(2): 479-491
Wacnik P.W., Baker C.M., Herron M.J., Blazar B.R., Wilcox G.L., Hordinsky M.K., Beitz A.J. and Ericson M.E. (2005)
Tumor-induced mechanical hyperalgesia involves CGRP receptors and altered innervation and vascularization of DsRed2 fluorescent hindpaw tumors.
Pain 115(1-2): 95-106
Stone L. and Wilcox G.L. (2004)
Alpha-2-adrenergic and opioid receptor additivity in rat locus coeruleus neurons.
Neurosci. Lett. 3 61(1-3): 265-268
Stone L., Vulchanova L., Riedl M.S., Williams F.G., Wilcox G.L. and Elde R. (2004)
Effects of peripheral nerve injury on delta opioid receptor (DOR) immunoreactivity in the rat spinal cord.
Neurosci. Lett. 361(1-3): 208-11
Wacnik P.W., Kehl L.J., Trempe T.M., Ramnaraine M.L. and Wilcox, G.L. (2003)
Tumor implantation in mouse humerus evokes movement-related hyperalgesia exceeding that evoked by intramuscular carrageenan.
Pain 101: 175-186
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