Red nucleus interleukin-6 participates in the maintenance of neuropathic pain through JAK/STAT3 and ERK signaling pathways

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We previously reported that interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the red nucleus (RN) is up-regulated at 3 weeks after spared nerve injury (SNI), and plays facilitated role in the later maintenance of neuropathic pain. The current study aimed to reveal the roles of different signaling pathways, including Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (JAK/STAT3), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/AKT), in RN IL-6-mediated pain modulation. In accord with the increase of IL-6 in the RN following SNI, the protein levels of phospho-STAT3 (p-STAT3), p-ERK and p-JNK were also up-regulated in the RN contralateral to the nerve injury side at 3 weeks after SNI. The increases of p-STAT3 and p-ERK (but not p-JNK) were associated with IL-6 and could be blocked by anti-IL-6 antibody. Microinjection of JAK2 inhibitor AG490, ERK inhibitor PD98059 and also JNK inhibitor SP600125 into the RN significantly increased the paw withdrawal threshold (PWT) and alleviated SNI-induced mechanical allodynia. Further studies showed that microinjection of recombinant rat IL-6 (rrIL-6, 20 ng) into the RN of normal rats significantly decreased the PWT of rats and increased the local protein levels of p-STAT3 and p-ERK, but not p-JNK. Pre-treatment with AG490 and PD98059 could prevent IL-6-induced mechanical allodynia. Whereas, p-p38 MAPK and p-AKT did not show any expression changes in the RN of rats with SNI or rats treated with rrIL-6. These results suggest that RN IL-6 participates in the later maintenance of SNI-induced neuropathic pain and plays facilitated role through activating JAK/STAT3 and ERK signaling pathways.

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