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Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 19

Brain Behav Immun


Elevated circulating soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sCD25) level is associated with prefrontal excitatory-inhibitory imbalance in individuals with chronic pain: A proton MRS study.


Ma J, Subramaniam P, Yancey JR, Farrington AA, McGlade EC, Renshaw PF, Yurgelun-Todd DA


Aberrant neuronal excitability in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is implicated in cognitive and affective pain processing. Such excitability may be amplified by activated circulating immune cells, including T lymphocytes, that interact with the central nervous system. Here, we conducted a study of individuals with chronic pain using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to investigate the clinical evidence for the interaction between peripheral immune activation and prefrontal excitatory-inhibitory imbalance. In thirty individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain, we assessed markers of peripheral immune activation, including soluble interleukin-2 receptor alpha chain (sCD25) levels, as well as brain metabolites, including Glx (glutamate + glutamine) to GABA+ (γ-aminobutyric acid + macromolecules/homocarnosine) ratio in the ACC. We found that the circulating level of sCD25 was associated with prefrontal Glx/GABA+. Greater prefrontal Glx/GABA+ was associated with higher pain catastrophizing, evaluative pain ratings, and anxiodepressive symptoms. Further, the interaction effect of sCD25 and prefrontal Glx/GABA+ on pain catastrophizing was significant, indicating the joint association of these two markers with pain catastrophizing. Our results provide the first evidence suggesting that peripheral T cellular activation, as reflected by elevated circulating sCD25 levels, may be linked to prefrontal excitatory-inhibitory imbalance in individuals with chronic pain. The interaction between these two systems may play a role as a potential mechanism underlying pain catastrophizing. Further prospective and treatment studies are needed to elucidate the specific role of the immune and brain interaction in pain catastrophizing.