Spinal protein kinase Mζ contributes to the maintenance of peripheral inflammation-primed persistent nociceptive sensitization after plantar incision

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Previous studies suggest that persistent post-surgical pain (PPSP) is correlated with preoperative pain status and amplification of central sensitization. Protein kinase Mζ (PKMζ) is an essential substrate of the late long-term potentiation underlying central sensitization, which is one mechanism of pain memory formation. However, the potential contributions of spinal PKMζ to PPSP, a condition in which preoperative pain is prevalent, are not known.


Here, a modified ‘hyperalgesia priming’ model was established to simulate the clinical situation. This model used intraplantar injections of carrageenan (Car) as priming stimuli to elicit persistent nociceptive sensitization after plantar incision in rats. Upon treatment with PKMζ inhibitor ZIP, Scr-ZIP or protein kinase Cs (PKCs) inhibitor NPC-15437, altered behaviour and spinal PKMζ/PKCs expression were observed.


A long-lasting hypersensitivity induced by Car-priming was identified and precipitated by subsequent plantar incision in this ‘two-hit’ paradigm. Post-treatment with ZIP, but not Scr-ZIP and NPC-15437, after the resolution of Car-priming selectively relieved hypersensitivity. In contrast, pre-priming NPC-15437 treatment only prevented Car-induced initial transient hyperalgesia. Immunoassays showed a significant decrease in spinal PKMζ expression after plantar incision with post-priming ZIP treatment as compared with Scr-ZIP and NPC-15437, but no notable differences in PKCs expression were observed.


Spinal PKCs solely contribute to the initial induction of persistent pain, whereas PKMζ plays an essential role in spinal plasticity storage. PKMζ is responsible for the maintenance of peripheral inflammation-primed PPSP. Therefore, spinal PKMζ may be a therapeutic target to prevent surgery-induced chronic pain in patients with preoperative pain.

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