Increasing TNF levels solely in the rat hippocampus produces persistent pain-like symptoms

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SummaryIncreasing only the expression of the pleiotropic cytokine tumor necrosis factor–alpha exclusively in the hippocampus of naïve rats induces peripheral hypersensitivity to thermal and mechanical stimulation reminiscent of chronic pain behaviors.The manifestation of chronic, neuropathic pain includes elevated levels of the cytokine tumor necrosis factor–alpha (TNF). Previously, we have shown that the hippocampus, an area of the brain most notable for its role in learning and memory formation, plays a fundamental role in pain sensation. Using an animal model of peripheral neuropathic pain, we have demonstrated that intracerebroventricular infusion of a TNF antibody adjacent to the hippocampus completely alleviated pain. Furthermore, intracerebroventricular infusion of rTNF adjacent to the hippocampus induced pain behavior in naïve animals similar to that expressed during a model of neuropathic pain. These data support our premise that enhanced production of hippocampal-TNF is integral in pain sensation. In the present study, TNF gene expression was induced exclusively in the hippocampus, eliciting increased local bioactive TNF levels, and animals were assessed for pain behaviors. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received stereotaxic injection of gold nanorod (GNR)-complexed cDNA (control or TNF) plasmids (nanoplasmidexes), and pain responses (i.e., thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia) were measured. Animals receiving hippocampal microinjection of TNF nanoplasmidexes developed thermal hyperalgesia bilaterally. Sensitivity to mechanical stimulation also developed bilaterally in the rat hind paws. In support of these behavioral findings, immunoreactive staining for TNF, bioactive levels of TNF, and levels of TNF mRNA per polymerase chain reaction analysis were assessed in several brain regions and found to be increased only in the hippocampus. These findings indicate that the specific elevation of TNF in the hippocampus is not a consequence of pain, but in fact induces these behaviors/symptoms.

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