Descending serotonergic controls regulate inflammation-induced mechanical sensitivity and methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 phosphorylation in the rat superficial dorsal horn

Mol Pain. 2008 Sep 15:4:35. doi: 10.1186/1744-8069-4-35.


Background: Regulation of pain states is, in part, dependent upon plastic changes in neurones within the superficial dorsal horn. There is also compelling evidence that pain states are under the control of descending projections from the brainstem. While a number of transcription factors including Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), Zif268 and Fos have been implicated in the regulation of dorsal horn neurone sensitization following injury, modulation of their activity by descending controls has not been investigated.

Results: Here, we describe how descending controls regulate MeCP2 phosphorylation (P-MeCP2), known to relieve transcriptional repression by MeCP2, and Zif268 and Fos expression in the rat superficial dorsal horn, after CFA injection into the hind paw. First, we report that CFA significantly increased P-MeCP2 in Lamina I and II, from 30 min post injection, with a maximum reached after 1 h. The increase in P-MeCP2 paralleled that of Zif268 and Fos, and P-MeCP2 was expressed in large sub-populations of Zif268 and Fos expressing neurones. Serotonergic depletion of the lumbar spinal cord with 5,7 di-hydroxytryptamine creatinine sulphate (5,7-DHT) reduced the inflammation evoked P-MeCP2 in the superficial dorsal horn by 57%, and that of Zif268 and Fos by 37.5% and 30% respectively. Although 5,7-DHT did not change primary thermal hyperalgesia, it significantly attenuated mechanical sensitivity seen in the first 24 h after CFA.

Conclusion: We conclude that descending serotonergic pathways play a crucial role in regulating gene expression in the dorsal horn and mechanical sensitivity associated with an inflammatory pain state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5,7-Dihydroxytryptamine / administration & dosage
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / administration & dosage
  • Animals
  • Freund's Adjuvant / administration & dosage
  • Inflammation Mediators / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / biosynthesis
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Posterior Horn Cells / metabolism*
  • Posterior Horn Cells / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin / adverse effects
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Mecp2 protein, rat
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2
  • 5,7-Dihydroxytryptamine
  • Serotonin
  • Freund's Adjuvant