Spinal cord transection and intrathecal injection of BDNF : two relevant models of neuropathic pain in rats ?

Abstract : Neuropathic pain, caused by lesions of central or peripheral nervous system, is difficult to treat because of its resistance to classical antalgic treatments. Most of pharmacotherapeutic treatments of neuropathic pain (antidepressants, anticonvulsants) currently used are only based on empirical data and are not specifically aimed at relieving pain. Better knowledge of the mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain is an absolute prerequesite to develop new and innovative treatments. With the aim of contributing to elucidate these mechanisms, I developed two models of neuropathic pain in rats, and studied their behavioral, pharmacological, cellular and biochemical characteristics. The first model consisted of the induction of central neuropathic pain by complete transection of the spinal cord at T8-T9 level. The second one consisted of the administration of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor; which implication in nociceptive signaling pathways is well established in the literature), directly at the spinal level, via intrathecal (i.t.) injection. In both cases, pro-algesic consequences of these interventions have been compared to those induced by unilateral ligation of the sciatic nerve, which is still considered as a classical, although not really satisfactory, model of peripheral neuropathic pain. From the second day after spinal cord transection up to (at least) 2 months later, lesioned rats developed a strong mechanical allodynia (von Frey filaments test) within a limited cutaneous territory just rostral to the surgical scar. This effect really reflected central neuropathic pain because it did not occur in control, « sham operated » animals, that underwent the same surgical intervention except the spinal cord transection. Mechanical allodynia was associated with marked overexpression of markers of neuronal injury (ATF-3), microglial activation (OX-42, P2X4, P2X7 and TLR4 receptors), astrocyte activation (GFAP), as well as upregulation of transcripts encoding BDNF and pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1ß, IL-6 and TNF-α, but only transiently for the latter cytokine), in dorsal root ganglia and/or spinal cord. Therefore, spinal cord transection triggered a strong neuroinflammatory reaction, like that occurring after peripheral nerve lesion, but with different time course and amplitude. On the other hand, intrathecal injection of an infra-nanomolar dose of BDNF (0.3 – 3.0 ng) also induced a strong mechanical allodynia and hyperalgesia at hindpaw level, which developed within 3-5 days and lasted for at least two weeks. However, in sharp contrast with spinal cord transection (and sciatic nerve ligation), i.t. injection of BDNF did not induce any microglial activation and/or proinflammatory cytokines upregulation. Intrathecal (exogenous) BDNF-induced (endogenous) BDNF auto-induction might play a key role in the maintenance of i.t. BDNF-induced hyperalgesia as the latter can be reversed by pharmacological blockade of the BDNF receptor TrkB (with cyclotraxin B at 20 mg/kg i.p., which also reversed sciatic nerve ligation-induced hyperalgesia). Pharmacological investigations showed that the opioid antalgic drug tapentadol and anticonvulsants such as pregabalin and gabapentin efficiently reduced neuropathic pain in i.t. BDNF i.t. as well as in sciatic nerve-ligated rats. Accordingly, intrathecal injection of BDNF might represent a new non-surgical model of neuropathic pain in rats. Moreover, our results indicate that blockade of BDNF-TrkB signaling could open new therapeutic perspectives for alleviating peripheral neuropathic pain. This innovative pharmacological approach should also be explored in the case of central neuropathic pain caused by spinal cord injury.
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Saïd M'Dahoma. Spinal cord transection and intrathecal injection of BDNF : two relevant models of neuropathic pain in rats ?. Human health and pathology. Université René Descartes - Paris V, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013PA05T046⟩. ⟨tel-00920412⟩

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