The role of hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor in age-related differences in neuropathic pain behavior in rats

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Aims:This study was aimed to explore the contribution of central brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the neuropathic pain pathogenesis using an aged rodent model.Main methods:Adult and aged rats were randomly assigned to either a sciatic nerve ligation (SNL) group or a control skin sham surgery group. Sensory behavioral testing were performed on the day before surgery and on the 3rd, 7th, 14th, and 21st days after surgery, followed by measurement of BDNF protein levels in different brain regions. In another experiment, the hippocampal BDNF gene expression after SNL surgery was assessed at different time-points. Furthermore, the analgesic effects of intranasal BDNF administration were tested in SNL animals.Key findings:Our behavioral results demonstrated that the hyperalgesia-like behavior after painful nerve injury has a higher incidence in aged rats compared with in adult animals. In particular, the hippocampal BDNF levels were inversely correlated with the probability of hyperalgesia-type behavior, in both brain-region specific and age-dependent manner. Time-course analysis showed that the hippocampal levels of BDNF mRNA in aged and adult rats started to decrease 7 and 14 days after surgery, respectively. However, the decrease was more pronounced in aged animals. Moreover, the repeated intranasal BDNF treatment could restore the central BDNF signaling, counteracting the age-related exacerbation of hyperalgesic behavior.Significance:Our findings imply that hippocampal BDNF may be related with the pathogenesis of elderly neuropathic pain. Pharmacological data further suggest that brain BDNF may be modifiable in aged neuropathic animals, and therefore, represent a promising target for intervention.

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