Low-dose interleukin-2 and regulatory T cell treatments attenuate punctate and dynamic mechanical allodynia in a mouse model of sciatic nerve injury

Rong Hu, Jintao Zhang, Xuemei Liu, Dong Huang, Yu Qing Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Nerve injury-induced mechanical hyper-sensitivity, in particular stroking-induced dynamic allodynia, is highly debilitating and difficult to treat. Previous studies indicate that the immunosuppressive regulatory T (Treg) cells modulate the magnitude of punctate mechanical allodynia resulting from sciatic nerve injury. However, whether enhancing Treg-mediated suppression attenuates dynamic allodynia is not known. In the present study, we addressed this knowledge gap by treating mice with low-dose interleukin-2 (ld-IL2) injections or adoptive transfer of Treg cells. Methods: Female Swiss Webster mice received daily injections of ld-IL2 (1 μg/mouse, intraper-itoneally) either before or after unilateral spared nerve injury (SNI). Male C57BL/6J mice received adoptive transfer of 1 x 106 Treg cells 3 weeks post-SNI. The responses to punctate and dynamic mechanical stimuli on the hindpaw were monitored before and up to 4–6 weeks post-SNI. We also compared the distribution of Treg cells and CD3+ total T cells after SNI and/or ld-IL2 treatment. Results: Ld-IL2 pretreatment in female Swiss Webster mice completely blocked the development of SNI-induced dynamic mechanical allodynia and reduced the magnitude of punc-tate allodynia. Delayed ld-IL2 treatment in female mice significantly attenuated the morphine-resistant punctate and dynamic allodynia at 3–5 weeks post-SNI. Adoptive transfer of Treg cells to male C57BL/6J mice 3 weeks post-SNI effectively reversed the persistent punctate and dynamic allodynia, supporting that the effect of ld-IL2 is mediated through endogenous Treg cells, and is likely independent of mouse strain and sex. Neither ld-IL2 treatment nor Treg transfer affected the basal responses to punctate or brush stimuli. Ld-IL2 significantly increased the frequency of Treg cells among total CD3+ T cells in the injured sciatic nerves but not in the uninjured nerves or the dorsal root ganglia, suggesting the injured nerve as ld-IL2’s site of action. Conclusion: Collectively, results from the present study supports Treg as a cellular target and ld-IL2 as a potential therapeutic option for nerve injury-induced persistent punctate and dynamic mechanical allodynia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-906
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pain Research
StatePublished - 2021


  • Chronic pain
  • Dynamic allodynia
  • Low-dose interleukin-2
  • Punctate allodynia
  • Regulatory T cell
  • Spared nerve injury


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