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Papers of the Week

Papers: 17 Dec 2022 - 23 Dec 2022

2022 Aug-Dec

Neurobiol Pain


Sex-distinct microglial activation and myeloid cell infiltration in the spinal cord after painful peripheral injury.


Huck NA, Donovan LJ, Shen H, Jordan CE, Muwanga GPB, Bridges CM, Forman TE, Cordonnier SA, Haight ES, Dale-Huang F, Takemura Y, Tawfik VL
Neurobiol Pain. 2022 Aug-Dec; 12:100106.
PMID: 36531615.


Chronic pain is a common and often debilitating problem that affects 100 million Americans. A better understanding of pain's molecular mechanisms is necessary for developing safe and effective therapeutics. Microglial activation has been implicated as a mediator of chronic pain in numerous preclinical studies; unfortunately, translational efforts using known glial modulators have largely failed, perhaps at least in part due to poor specificity of the compounds pursued, or an incomplete understanding of microglial reactivity. In order to achieve a more granular understanding of the role of microglia in chronic pain as a means of optimizing translational efforts, we utilized a clinically-informed mouse model of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and monitored microglial activation throughout pain progression. We discovered that while both males and females exhibit spinal cord microglial activation as evidenced by increases in Iba1, activation is attenuated and delayed in females. We further evaluated the expression of the newly identified microglia-specific marker, TMEM119, and identified two distinct populations in the spinal cord parenchyma after peripheral injury: TMEM119+ microglia and TMEM119- infiltrating myeloid lineage cells, which are comprised of Ly6G + neutrophils and Ly6G- macrophages/monocytes. Neurons are sensitized by inflammatory mediators released in the CNS after injury; however, the cellular source of these cytokines remains somewhat unclear. Using multiplex hybridization in combination with immunohistochemistry, we demonstrate that spinal cord TMEM119+ microglia are the cellular source of cytokines IL6 and IL1β after peripheral injury. Taken together, these data have important implications for translational studies: 1) microglia remain a viable analgesic target for males and females, so long as duration after injury is considered; 2) the analgesic properties of microglial modulators are likely at least in part related to their suppression of microglial-released cytokines, and 3) a limited number of neutrophils and macrophages/monocytes infiltrate the spinal cord after peripheral injury but have unknown impact on pain persistence or resolution. Further studies to uncover glial-targeted therapeutic interventions will need to consider sex, timing after injury, and the exact target population of interest to have the specificity necessary for translation.