Low-dose interleukin-2 reverses behavioral sensitization in multiple mouse models of headache disorders

Jintao Zhang, Katherine Czerpaniak, Liang Huang, Xuemei Liu, Megan E. Cloud, Jacqueline Unsinger, Richard S. Hotchkiss, Daizong Li, Yu Qing Cao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Headache disorders are highly prevalent and debilitating, with limited treatment options. Previous studies indicate that many proinflammatory immune cells contribute to headache pathophysiology. Given the well-recognized role of regulatory T (Treg) cells in maintaining immune homeostasis, we hypothesized that enhancing Treg function may be effective to treat multiple headache disorders. In a mouse model of chronic migraine, we observed that repeated nitroglycerin (NTG, a reliable trigger of migraine in patients) administration doubled the number of CD3 T cells in the trigeminal ganglia without altering the number of Treg cells, suggesting a deficiency in Treg-mediated immune homeostasis. We treated mice with low-dose interleukin-2 (ld-IL2) to preferentially expand and activate endogenous Treg cells. This not only prevented the development of NTG-induced persistent sensitization but also completely reversed the established facial skin hypersensitivity resulting from repeated NTG administration. The effect of ld-IL2 was independent of mouse sex and/or strain. Importantly, ld-IL2 treatment did not alter basal nociceptive responses, and repeated usage did not induce tolerance. The therapeutic effect of ld-IL2 was abolished by Treg depletion and was recapitulated by Treg adoptive transfer. Furthermore, treating mice with ld-IL2 1 to 7 days after mild traumatic brain injury effectively prevented as well as reversed the development of behaviors related to acute and chronic post-traumatic headache. In a model of medication overuse headache, Ld-IL2 completely reversed the cutaneous hypersensitivity induced by repeated administration of sumatriptan. Collectively, this study identifies ld-IL2 as a promising prophylactic for multiple headache disorders with a mechanism distinct from the existing treatment options.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1398
Number of pages18
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Low-dose interleukin-2 reverses behavioral sensitization in multiple mouse models of headache disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this