Increased plasma glutamate, glycine, and arginine levels in complex regional pain syndrome type 1
Background: Various inflammatory mediators have been identified as potential contributors to complex regional pain syndrome type 1 (CRPS1), but these mediators do not entirely explain certain manifestations of the syndrome, such as pain. The objective of this study was to investigate the role of amino acids in the pathogenesis of CRPS1. Methods: We used HPLC to determine plasma concentrations of 16 amino acids, especially those related to the NMDA receptor (e.g., glutamate and glycine) and nitric oxide (NO) synthesis (e.g., arginine and citrulline) in patients with CRPS1 (n=64) and age- and sex-matched healthy controls (n=51). Patients rated pain intensity (visual analog scale) and the subjective experience of pain intensity (McGill Pain Questionnaire). Psychological dysfunction was assessed using the SCL-90. Results: Relative to controls, in CRPS1 patients, plasma levels of glutamate, arginine, taurine, and glycine were increased, and plasma levels of glutamine and the ratio of citrulline to arginine were decreased. Remarkably, in CRPS1 patients there was a highly significant inverse correlation between glutamine and glutamate, although the sum of molar concentrations of glutamate and glutamine remains unchanged. Subjective measures of pain and indicators of psychoneuroticism and emotional instability did not correlate with amino acid levels. Conclusion: This study shows for the first time a pronounced increase in amino acid levels in this chronic pain syndrome. The marked differences in glutamate, glutamine, glycine, taurine and arginine levels between patients and controls suggest the involvement of both the NDMA receptor and the endothelium-dependent arginine-NO system in CRPS1.