Cathepsin S release from primary cultured microglia is regulated by the P2X7 receptor

Glia. 2010 Nov 1;58(14):1710-26. doi: 10.1002/glia.21042.


Microglia respond rapidly to injury, increasing their synthesis and release of inflammatory mediators, many of which contribute to the maintenance of persistent pain following CNS or PNS injury. We have recently shown that the lysosomal cysteine protease Cathepsin S (CatS) expressed by spinal microglia is vital for the full expression of neuropathic pain. Here we evaluated the mechanisms by which CatS release occurs from primary microglia in culture. Stimulation of microglia with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) alone was insufficient to induce release of enzymatically active CatS in extracellular media. However, following priming with LPS, ATP at 1 mM but not 50 μM resulted in significant release of CatS in the media and maturation of CatS protein in cell extracts. The enzymatic activity measured in media at neutral pH was specific for CatS as it was completely prevented by the CatS inhibitor LHVS. ATP-induced release of CatS required potassium efflux and both extracellular calcium influx and mobilization of intracellular calcium. Pharmacological modulation of ATP-induced release of CatS enzymatic activity revealed that this was dependent on activation of the P2X7 receptor and intracellular phospholipase C and phospholipase A(2). In addition, ATP-induced CatS release involved p38 mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation, but not ERK and PI3K signalling pathways. Thus, as high concentration of extracellular ATP promotes release of active CatS from microglia via P2X7 receptor activation, we suggest that the inhibition of CatS release is one of the mechanisms responsible for P2X7 antagonist efficacy in neuropathic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cathepsins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cathepsins / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / enzymology*
  • Neuralgia / enzymology
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / enzymology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7 / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / physiology


  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X7
  • Cathepsins
  • cathepsin S