Liver X Receptor α Is Involved in Counteracting Mechanical Allodynia by Inhibiting Neuroinflammation in the Spinal Dorsal Horn

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Liver X receptors, including α and β isoforms, are ligand-activated transcription factors. Whether liver X receptor α plays a role in neuropathic pain is unknown.


A spared nerve injury model was established in adult male rats and mice. Von Frey tests were performed to evaluate the neuropathic pain behavior; Western blot and immunohistochemistry were performed to understand the underlying mechanisms.


Intrathecal injection of a specific liver X receptor agonist T0901317 or GW3965 could either prevent the development of mechanical allodynia or alleviate the established mechanical allodynia, both in rats and wild-type mice. GW3965 could inhibit the activation of glial cells and the expression of tumor necrosis factor-α (mean ± SD: 196 ± 48 vs. 119 ± 57; n = 6; P < 0.01) and interleukin 1β (mean ± SD: 215 ± 69 vs. 158 ± 74; n = 6; P < 0.01) and increase the expression of interleukin 10 in the spinal dorsal horn. All of the above effects of GW3965 could be abolished by liver X receptor α mutation. Moreover, more glial cells were activated, and more interleukin 1β was released in the spinal dorsal horn in liver X receptor α knockout mice than in wild-type mice after spared nerve injury. Aminoglutethimide, a neurosteroid synthesis inhibitor, blocked the inhibitory effect of T0901317 on mechanical allodynia, on the activation of glial cells, and on the expression of cytokines.


Activation of liver X receptor α inhibits mechanical allodynia by inhibiting the activation of glial cells and rebalancing cytokines in the spinal dorsal horn via neurosteroids.

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