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Papers: 24 Feb 2024 - 1 Mar 2024

2024 Feb 26



BDNF in Neuropathic Pain; the Culprit that Cannot be Apprehended.


Smith PA


In males but not in females, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an obligatory role in the onset and maintenance of neuropathic pain. Afferent terminals of injured peripheral nerves release colony stimulating factor (CSF-1) and other mediators into the dorsal horn. These transform the phenotype of dorsal horn microglia such that they express P2X4 purinoceptors. Activation of these receptors by neuron-derived ATP promotes BDNF release. This microglial-derived BDNF increases synaptic activation of excitatory dorsal horn neurons and decreases that of inhibitory neurons. It also alters the neuronal chloride gradient such the normal inhibitory effect of GABA is converted to excitation. By as yet undefined processes, this attenuated inhibition increases NMDA receptor function. BDNF also promotes the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from astrocytes. All of these actions culminate in the increase dorsal horn excitability that underlies many forms of neuropathic pain. Peripheral nerve injury also alters excitability of structures in the thalamus, cortex and mesolimbic system that are responsible for pain perception and for the generation of co-morbidities such as anxiety and depression. The weight of evidence from male rodents suggests that this preferential modulation of excitably of supra-spinal pain processing structures also involves the action of microglial-derived BDNF. Possible mechanisms promoting the preferential release of BDNF in pain signaling structures are discussed. In females, invading T-lymphocytes increase dorsal horn excitability but it remains to be determined whether similar processes operate in supra-spinal structures. Despite its ubiquitous role in pain aetiology neither BDNF nor TrkB receptors represent potential therapeutic targets.