Dural fibroblasts release factors that activate/sensitize meningeal afferents. These cells may play an active role in the pathophysiology of headache.
Nociceptive signaling from the meninges is proposed to contribute to many forms of headache. However, the events within the meninges that drive afferent activity are not clear. Meningeal fibroblasts are traditionally thought to produce extracellular proteins that constitute the meninges but not to contribute to headache. The purpose of these studies was to determine whether dural fibroblasts release factors that activate/sensitize dural afferents and produce headache-like behavior in rats. Dura mater was removed from male rats and dural fibroblasts were cultured. Fibroblast cultures were stimulated with vehicle or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), washed, and conditioned media was collected. Fibroblast media conditioned with vehicle or LPS was applied to retrogradely labeled rat dural trigeminal ganglion neurons in vitro. Patch-clamp electrophysiology was performed to determine whether conditioned media activated/sensitized dural afferents. A preclinical behavioral model was used where conditioned media was applied directly to the rat dura to determine the presence of cutaneous facial and hind-paw allodynia. Conditioned media was also tested for interleukin-6 (IL-6) content using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Application of LPS-conditioned fibroblast media to dural afferents produced a significant increase in action potential firing as well as cutaneous facial and hind-paw allodynia when this media was applied to the dura. Finally, stimulation of cultured fibroblasts with LPS increased IL-6 levels in the media. These findings demonstrate that fibroblasts stimulated with LPS release factors capable of activating/sensitizing dural afferents. Further, they suggest that fibroblasts play a potential role in the pathophysiology of headache.