Intrathecal NGF administration reduces reactive astrocytosis and changes neurotrophin receptors expression pattern in a rat model of neuropathic pain

Giovanni Cirillo, Carlo Cavaliere, Maria Rosaria Bianco, Antonietta De Simone, Anna Maria Colangelo, Stefania Sellitti, Lilia Alberghina, Michele Papa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Nerve growth factor (NGF), an essential peptide for sensory neurons, seems to have opposite effects when administered peripherally or directly to the central nervous system. We investigated the effects of 7-days intrathecal (i.t.) infusion of NGF on neuronal and glial spinal markers relevant to neuropathic behavior induced by chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve. Allodynic and hyperalgesic behaviors were investigated by Von Frey and thermal Plantar tests, respectively. NGF-treated animals showed reduced allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia, compared to control animals. We evaluated on lumbar spinal cord the expression of microglial (ED-1), astrocytic (GFAP and S-100β), and C- and Aδ-fibers (SubP, IB-4 and Cb) markers. I.t. NGF treatment reduced reactive astrocytosis and the density of SubP, IB4 and Cb positive fibers in the dorsal horn of injured animals. Morphometric parameters of proximal sciatic nerve stump fibers and cells in DRG were also analyzed in CCI rats: myelin thickness was reduced and DRG neurons and satellite cells appeared hypertrophic. I.t. NGF treatment showed a beneficial effect in reversing these molecular and morphological alterations. Finally, we analyzed by immunohistochemistry the expression pattern of neurotrophin receptors TrkA, pTrkA, TrkB and p75NTR. Substantial alterations in neurotrophin receptors expression were observed in the spinal cord of CCI and NGF-treated animals. Our results indicate that i.t. NGF administration reverses the neuro-glial morphomolecular changes occurring in neuropathic animals paralleled by alterations in neurotrophin receptors ratio, and suggest that NGF is effective in restoring homeostatic conditions in the spinal cord and maintaining analgesia in neuropathic pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalCellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010



  • Chronic constriction injury
  • Glia
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Neurotrophin receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology

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