Sigma-1 receptor-mediated increase in spinal p38 MAPK phosphorylation leads to the induction of mechanical allodynia in mice and neuropathic rats

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The direct activation of the spinal sigma-1 receptor (Sig-1R) produces mechanical allodynia (MA) and thermal hyperalgesia (TH) in mice. In addition, the blockade of the spinal Sig-1R prevents the induction of MA, but not TH in chronic constriction injury (CCI)-induced neuropathic rats. The present study was designed to investigate whether the increase in spinal p38 MAPK phosphorylation (p-p38 MAPK) mediates Sig-1R-induced MA or TH in mice and the induction of MA in neuropathic rats. MA and TH were evaluated using von Frey filaments and a hot-plate apparatus, respectively. Neuropathic pain was produced by CCI of the right sciatic nerve in rats. Western blot assay and immunohistochemistry were performed to determine the changes of p-p38 MAPK expression in the spinal cord. Intrathecal (i.t.) injection of PRE084, a selective Sig-1R agonist, into naïve mice time-dependently increased the expression of p-p38 MAPK, which was blocked by pretreatment with BD1047, a Sig-1R antagonist. I.t. pretreatment with SB203580, a p38 MAPK inhibitor also dose-dependently inhibited PRE084-induced MA, whereas TH induction was not affected. In CCI rats, i.t. injection of BD1047 during the induction phase (postoperative days 0 to 5) reduced the CCI-induced increase in p-p38 MAPK. In addition, i.t. SB203580 treatment during the induction phase also suppressed the development of CCI-induced MA, but not TH. Conversely, i.t. SB203580 treatment during the maintenance phase (postoperative days 15 to 20) had no effect on CCI-induced MA or TH. These results demonstrate that the increase in spinal p-p38 MAPK is closely associated with the induction of Sig-1R mediated MA, but not TH. Sigma-1 receptor modulation of p-p38 MAPK also plays an important role in the induction, but not the maintenance, of MA in neuropathic pain.


▸ Spinal Sigma 1 receptor activation increased p38 MAPK phosphorylation. ▸ Inhibition of p38 MAPK attenuated PRE084-induced MA, but not TH. ▸ In CCI rats, early blockade of Sigma 1 receptor reduced p38 MAPK phosphorylation. ▸ p38 MAPK was responsible for induction of CCI-induced MA, but not TH. ▸ P38 MAPK was not related with maintenance of CCI-induced MA or TH.

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