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2020 Sep 07

Int J Mol Sci



Electroacupuncture Modulates Spinal BDNF/TrκB Signaling Pathway and Ameliorates the Sensitization of Dorsal Horn WDR Neurons in Spared Nerve Injury Rats.


Neuropathic pain is more complex and severely affects the quality of patients' life. However, the therapeutic strategy for neuropathic pain in the clinic is still limited. Previously we have reported that electroacupuncture (EA) has an attenuating effect on neuropathic pain induced by spared nerve injury (SNI), but its potential mechanisms remain to be further elucidated. In this study, we designed to determine whether BDNF/TrκB signaling cascade in the spinal cord is involved in the inhibitory effect of 2 Hz EA on neuropathic pain in SNI rats. The paw withdrawal threshold (PWT) of rats was used to detect SNI-induced mechanical hypersensitivity. The expression of BDNF/TrκB cascade in the spinal cord was evaluated by qRT-PCR and Western blot assay. The C-fiber-evoked discharges of wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons in spinal dorsal horn were applied to indicate the noxious response of WDR neurons. The results showed that 2 Hz EA significantly down-regulated the levels of BDNF and TrκB mRNA and protein expression in the spinal cord of SNI rats, along with ameliorating mechanical hypersensitivity. In addition, intrathecal injection of 100 ng BDNF, not only inhibited the analgesic effect of 2 Hz EA on pain hypersensitivity, but also reversed the decrease of BDNF and TrκB expression induced by 2 Hz EA. Moreover, 2 Hz EA obviously reduced the increase of C-fiber-evoked discharges of dorsal horn WDR neurons by SNI, but exogenous BDNF (100 ng) effectively reversed the inhibitory effect of 2 Hz EA on SNI rats, resulting in a remarkable improvement of excitability of dorsal horn WDR neurons in SNI rats. Taken together, these data suggested that 2 Hz EA alleviates mechanical hypersensitivity by blocking the spinal BDNF/TrκB signaling pathway-mediated central sensitization in SNI rats. Therefore, targeting BDNF/TrκB cascade in the spinal cord may be a potential mechanism of EA against neuropathic pain.