Gliosis is strongly implicated in the development and maintenance of persistent pain states following chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve. Here we demonstrate that in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, gliosis is accompanied by changes in glial amino acid transporters examined by immunoblot, immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR. Cytokines, proinflammatory mediators and microglia increase up to postoperative day (pd) 3 before decreasing on pd 7. Then, spinal glial fibrillary acidic protein increases on pd 7, lasting until pd 14 and later. Simultaneously, the expression of glial amino acid transporters for glycine and glutamate (GlyT1 and GLT1) is reduced on pd 7 and pd 14. Consistent with a reduced expression of GlyT1 and GLT1, high performance liquid chromatography reveals a net increase in the concentration of glutamate and glycine on pd 7 and pd 14 in tissue from the lumbar spinal cord of neuropathic mice. In this study we have confirmed that microglial activation precedes astrogliosis. Such a glial cytoskeletal rearrangement correlates with a marked decrease in glycine and glutamate transporters, which might, in turn, be responsible for the increased concentration of these neurotransmitters in the spinal cord. We speculate that these phenomena might contribute, via over-stimulation of NMDA receptors, to the changes in synaptic functioning that are responsible for the maintenance of persistent pain.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience