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2021 Apr 12




Chemogenetic Activation of CX3CR1-Expressing Spinal Microglia Using Gq-DREADD Elicits Mechanical Allodynia in Male Mice.



It is important to investigate the sex-dependent roles of microglia in pain hypersensitivity as reactive microglia within the spinal dorsal horn (DH) have been reported to be pivotal in neuropathic pain induction in male rodents upon nerve injury. Here, we aimed at determining the role of sex differences in the behavioral and functional outcomes of the chemogenetic activation of spinal microglia using Gq-designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (Gq-DREADD) driven by the microglia-specific Cx3cr1 promoter. CAG-LSL-human Gq-coupled M3 muscarinic receptors (hM3Dq)-DREADD mice were crossed with CX3C chemokine receptor 1 (CX3CR1)-Cre mice, and immunohistochemistry images revealed that hM3Dq was selectively expressed on Iba1 microglia, but not on astrocytes and neurons. Intrathecal (i.t.) administration of clozapine-N-oxide (CNO) elicited mechanical allodynia exclusively in male mice. Furthermore, the reactive microglia-dominant molecules that contributed to pain hypersensitivity in CX3CR1-hM3Dq were upregulated in mice of both sexes. The degree of upregulation was greater in male than in female mice. Depletion of spinal microglia using pexidartinib (PLX3397), a colony stimulating factor-1 receptor inhibitor, alleviated the male CX3CR1-hM3Dq mice from pain hypersensitivity and compromised the expression of inflammatory molecules. Thus, the chemogenetic activation of spinal microglia resulted in pain hypersensitivity in male mice, suggesting the sex-dependent molecular aspects of spinal microglia in the regulation of pain.