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Papers of the Week

Papers: 28 Oct 2023 - 3 Nov 2023

2023 Oct 30



Intranasal oxytocin alleviates comorbid depressive symptoms in neuropathic pain via elevating hippocampal BDNF production in both female and male mice.


Liu R, Sun D, Xing X, Chen Q, Lu B, Meng B, Yuan H, Mo L, Sheng L, Zheng J, Wang Q, Chen J, Chen X


The comorbidity of pain and depression is frequently observed in patients suffering from chronic pain and depression. However, the comorbid mechanism is not well elucidated and the therapeutic medication is still inadequate. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide synthesized in the hypothalamus. It has been reported to relieve chronic pain and depressive symptoms. However, the analgesic action and mechanisms of oxytocin have mainly been investigated using peripheral or spinal administration. Because of the advantage of intranasal delivery of oxytocin in crossing the blood-brain barrier, we investigated the effect of intranasal application of oxytocin on neuropathic pain and comorbid depressive symptoms in both female and male mice. In female and male mice receiving spared nerve injury (SNI) surgery, intranasal oxytocin (2.4 μg, daily for 28 days) attenuated depression-like behavior, but did not alleviate mechanical hyperalgesia. Intranasal oxytocin not only inhibited the activation of microglia and astrocytes, but also increased the downregulated oxytocin receptor (OTR) expression, reversed the elevated GluN2A, and restored the decreased BDNF expression in the hippocampus. SNI also decreased OTR expression in the spinal cord and increased spinal GluN2A and BDNF. However, intranasal oxytocin treatment did not change the expression levels of OTR, GluN2A, or BDNF in the spinal cord of neuropathic mice. The results suggest that the oxytocin signaling in the hippocampus is involved in the comorbidity of pain and depression, and intranasal oxytocin may have the potential to treat depressive symptoms in neuropathic pain patients.