Possible role of inflammatory mediators in tactile hypersensitivity in rat models of mononeuropathy

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Peripheral hypersensitivity (hyperalgesia and allodynia) are common phenomena both in inflammatory and in neuropathic pain conditions. Several rat models of mononeuropathy (Bennett, Seltzer and Gazelius models) display such symptoms following partial injury to the sciatic nerve. Using immunohistochemistry and behavioral tests, we investigated inflammatory cell and cytokine responses in the sciatic nerve 14 days after injury created in these different models as well as after axotomy. Tactile hypersensitivity (‘allodynia’) was present in all Gazelius model rats whereas only 38 and 29% of the Bennett and Seltzer models, respectively, displayed this sign of neuropathy. The inflammatory reactions in rats with and without tactile allodynia were compared. Monocytes/macrophages (ED-1), natural killer cells, T lymphocytes, and the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), were significantly upregulated in all nerve injured rats in comparison to sham-operated controls. Interestingly, ED-1-, TNF-α- and IL-6-positive cells increased more markedly in allodynic Bennett and Seltzer rats than in non-allodynic ones. The magnitude of the inflammatory response does not seem to relate to the extent of damage to the nerve fibers because axotomized rats displayed much lower upregulation. Our findings indicate that the considerable increase in monocytes/macrophages induced by a nerve injury results in a very high release of IL-6 and TNF-α. This may relate to the generation of tactile allodynia/hyperalgesia, since there was a clear correlation between the number of ED-1 and IL-6-positive cells and the degree of allodynia. It is possible that measures to reduce monocyte/macrophage recruitment and the release of pro-inflammatory interleukins after nerve damage could influence the development of neuropathic pain.

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