OBJECTIVES--It has been shown previously that hyaluronic acid (HA) has an analgesic action on bradykinin induced pain in the knee joints of rats. This study further clarifies the effects of the molecular weight of HA and its mechanism of action in the same model using HA of molecular weight 800 to 2.3 x 10(6) daltons and a bradykinin antagonist. METHODS--Bradykinin and the test HA preparations were given to rats by intra-articular injection, and the severity of pain was evaluated by a change in the walking behaviour. RESULTS--HA with a molecular weight greater than 40 kilodaltons produces analgesic effects with a simultaneous or earlier injection. The ID50 values of HA with molecular weight 40, 310, 860, and 2300 kilodaltons were greater than 2.5, 0.6, 0.07, and 0.06 mg/joint respectively. The duration of the analgesic effect of 860 and 2300 kilodalton HA was 72 hours at 10 mg/ml, whereas that of 310 kilodalton HA was short, being undetectable after 24 hours. The analgesic action of HA of 860 kilodaltons was not changed by pretreatment with four saccharide HA and inhibited by pretreatment with HA larger than six to eight saccharides, capable of binding to HA receptors. Further, HA did not interfere with the analgesic action of the bradykinin antagonist, indicating that HA does not directly bind with bradykinin receptors. CONCLUSIONS--HA with a molecular weight of greater than 40 kilodaltons produced an analgesic effect, and HA of 860 and 2300 kilodaltons produced high and long-lasting analgesia. These effects of HA appear to be caused by the interaction between HA and HA receptors.
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