Contribution of spinal cord glial cells to L. amazonensis experimental infection-induced pain in BALB/c mice

Sergio M. Borghi, Victor Fattori, Felipe A. Pinho-Ribeiro, Talita P. Domiciano, Milena M. Miranda-Sapla, Tiago H. Zaninelli, Rubia Casagrande, Phileno Pinge-Filho, Wander R. Pavanelli, Jose C. Alves-Filho, Fernando Q. Cunha, Thiago M. Cunha, Waldiceu A. Verri

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Background: The cellular and molecular pathophysiological mecha\nisms of pain processing in neglected parasitic infections such as leishmaniasis remain unknown. The present study evaluated the participation of spinal cord glial cells in the pathophysiology of pain induced by Leishmania amazonensis infection in BALB/c mice. Methods: Mice received intra-plantar ( injection of L. amazonensis (1 × 105) and hyperalgesia, and paw edema were evaluated bilaterally for 40 days. The levels of TNF-α and IL-1β, MPO activity, and histopathology were assessed on the 40th day. ATF3 mRNA expression was assessed in DRG cells at the 30th day post-infection. Blood TNF-α and IL-1β levels and systemic parasite burden were evaluated 5-40 days after the infection. At the 30th day post-infection L. amazonensis, the effects of intrathecal (i.t.) treatments with neutralizing antibody anti-CX3CL1, etanercept (soluble TNFR2 receptor), and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) on infection-induced hyperalgesia and paw edema were assessed. In another set of experiments, we performed a time course analysis of spinal cord GFAP and Iba-1 (astrocytes and microglia markers, respectively) and used confocal immunofluorescence and Western blot to confirm the expression at the protein level. Selective astrocyte (α-aminoadipate) and microglia (minocycline) inhibitors were injected i.t. to determine the contribution of these cells to hyperalgesia and paw edema. The effects of i.t. treatments with glial and NFκB (PDTC) inhibitors on spinal glial activation, TNF-α, IL-1β, CX3CR1 and CX3CL1 mRNA expression, and NFκB activation were also evaluated. Finally, the contribution of TNF-α and IL-1β to CX3CL1 mRNA expression was investigated. Results: L. amazonensis infection induced chronic mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia and paw edema in the infected paw. Mechanical hyperalgesia was also observed in the contralateral paw. TNF-α, IL-1β, MPO activity, and epidermal/dermal thickness increased in the infected paw, which confirmed the peripheral inflammation at the primary foci of this infection. ATF3 mRNA expression at the ipsilateral DRG of the infected paw was unaltered 30 days post-infection. TNF-α and IL-1β blood levels were not changed over the time course of disease, and parasitism increased in a time-dependent manner in the ipsilateral draining lymph node. Treatments targeting CX3CL1, TNF-α, and IL-1β inhibited L. amazonensis-induced ongoing mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia, but not paw edema. A time course of GFAP, Iba-1, and CX3CR1 mRNA expression indicated spinal activation of astrocytes and microglia, which was confirmed at the GFAP and Iba-1 protein level at the peak of mRNA expression (30th day). Selective astrocyte and microglia inhibition diminished infection-induced ipsilateral mechanical hyperalgesia and thermal hyperalgesia, and contralateral mechanical hyperalgesia, but not ipsilateral paw edema. Targeting astrocytes, microglia and NFκB diminished L. amazonensis-induced GFAP, Iba-1, TNF-α, IL-1β, CX3CR1 and CX3CL1 mRNA expression, and NFκB activation in the spinal cord at the peak of spinal cord glial cells activation. CX3CL1 mRNA expression was also detected in the ipsilateral DRG of infected mice at the 30th day post-infection, and the i.t. injection of TNF-α or IL-1β in naïve animals induced CX3CL1 mRNA expression in the spinal cord and ipsilateral DRG. Conclusions: L. amazonensis skin infection produces chronic pain by central mechanisms involving spinal cord astrocytes and microglia-related production of cytokines and chemokines, and NFκB activation contributes to L. amazonensis infection-induced hyperalgesia and neuroinflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 28 2019


  • Astrocytes
  • Hyperalgesia
  • L. amazonensis
  • Microglia
  • NFκB


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