Astrocyte contributes to pain development via MMP2-JNK1/2 signaling in a mouse model of complex regional pain syndrome

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The activation of spinal glial cells (astrocyte and microglia) is reported in patient with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). However, the roles of spinal glial activities in the pathophysiology of CRPS are unclear. Here, we explored the roles of spinal astrocyte and microglia and the molecular mechanisms underlying CRPS using a mouse model of chronic post-ischemia pain (CPIP).


CPIP injury increased the level of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP, reactive astrocyte biomarker), but had no significant impact on ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (IBA1, reactive microglia biomarker), in the ipsilateral dorsal horn on post-injury day (PID) 3 when the pain threshold started to reduce significantly. Astrocytic inhibition with fluorocitrate but not microglial inhibition with minocycline attenuated the development of allodynia in CPIP-injured mice, which was concomitant with increased spinal levels of phosphorylated c-jun N-terminal kinase 1/2 (pJNK1/2) on PID 3. Furthermore, the intrathecal administration of SP600125 (JNK inhibitor) prevented the development of allodynia in CPIP-injured mice. Double immunofluorescence staining showed that pJNK1/2 was mainly co-localized with GFAP. Subsequently, increased levels of pJNK1/2 were reversed by intrathecal fluorocitrate. Furthermore, the level of spinal matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2) was increased and mainly expressed in NeuN (neuron biomarker) on PID 3 in the CPIP-injured mice, while intrathecal APR 100 (MMP2 inhibitor) delayed the development of allodynia and decreased spinal levels of GFAP and pJNK1/2 on PID 3.


This study shows that activation of astrocyte MMP2/JNK1/2 signaling pathway contributes to the pathogenesis of pain hypersensitivity in the CPIP model.

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