Activated microglia in nociception

Pain Physician. 2010 May-Jun;13(3):295-304.


Microglial cells appear to play a vital role in the initiation of certain neuropathic pain states. In order to initiate neuropathic pain, microglia need to be activated. Microglia activation in the spinal cord involves both hypertrophy as well as hyperplasia, progressing through a hypertrophic morphology, with thickened and retracted processes (observed within the first 24 hours after nerve injury), and an increase in cell number (observed around 2-3 days after nerve injury). There seems to be at least 5 major paths to activate microglia. These 5 pathways will be discussed and are identified by their main signaling mediator and/or receptor which include fractalkine, interferon-gamma, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, TLR4, and P2X4. Thus, one or more of these mediators/pathways which lead to microglial activation might contribute to neuropathic pain. A greater appreciation of the roles of various mediators/paths which activate microglia might help lead to future novel therapeutic targets in efforts to ameliorate severe symptoms of neuropathic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemokine CCL2 / metabolism
  • Chemokine CX3CL1 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Hypertrophy
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Microglia* / metabolism
  • Neuralgia / etiology*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Nociceptors* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X4
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Chemokine CX3CL1
  • Neuropeptides
  • P2RX4 protein, human
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X4
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Interferon-gamma