The specific mechanisms underlying cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5)-mediated neuropathic pain at the spinal cord level remain elusive. The aim of the present study was to explore the role of crosstalk between Cdk5/p35 and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signalling in mediating spinal astrocyte activity via the PPARγ pathway in a rat model of chronic constriction injury (CCI). Here, we quantified pain behaviour after CCI; detected the localization of p35, Cdk5, phosphorylated ERK1/2 (pERK1/2), phosphorylated peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (pPPARγ), neuronal nuclei (NeuN, a neuronal marker), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP, an activated astrocyte marker) and ionized calcium binding adaptor molecule 1 (IBA1, a microglial marker) in the dorsal horn (DH) using immunofluorescence; measured the protein levels of Cdk5, p35, pERK1/2, pPPARγ and GFAP using Western blot analysis; and gauged the enzyme activity of Cdk5/p35 kinase by a Cdk5/p35 kinase activity assay kit. Tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-6 levels were measured by ELISA. Ligation of the right sciatic nerve induced mechanical allodynia; thermal hyperalgesia; and the time-dependent upregulation of p35, pERK1/2 and GFAP and downregulation of pPPARγ. p35 colocalized with Cdk5, pERK1/2, pPPARγ, neurons and astrocytes but not microglia. Meanwhile, intrathecal injection of the Cdk5 inhibitor roscovitine, the mitogen-activated ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126 and the PPARγ agonist pioglitazone prevented or reversed behavioural allodynia, increased pPPARγ expression, inhibited astrocyte activation, and alleviated proinflammatory cytokine (TNFα, IL-1β, and IL-6) release from activated astrocytes. Furthermore, crosstalk between the Cdk5/p35 and ERK1/2 pathways was observed with CCI. Blockade of either Cdk5/p35 or ERK1/2 inhibited Cdk5 activity. These findings indicate that spinal crosstalk between the Cdk5/p35 and ERK1/2 pathways mediates astrocyte activity via the PPARγ pathway in CCI rats and that targeting this crosstalk could be an effective strategy to attenuate CCI and astrocyte-derived neuroinflammation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.