P2X(7) receptor is an important member of ATP-sensitive ionotropic P2X receptors family, which includes seven receptor subtypes (P2X(1)-P2X(7)). Recent evidence indicates that P2X(7)R participates in the onset and persistence of neuropathic pain. In tetanic stimulation of the sciatic nerve model, P2X(7)R was involved in the activation of microglia, but whether this happens in other neuropathic pain models remains unclear. In this study we used immunohistochemistry and Western blot to explore the relationship of P2X(7)R expression with microglia activation, and with mechanical allodynia and thermal hypersensitivity in the chronic constriction of the sciatic nerve (CCI) rat model. The results show that following nerve ligature, mechanical allodynia and thermal hypersensitivity were developed within 3 days (d), peaked at 14d and persisted for 21d on the injured side. P2X(7)R levels in the ipsilateral L4-6 spinal cord were increased markedly after injury and the highest levels were observed on day 14, significant difference was observed at I-IV layers of the dorsal horn. The change in P2X(7)R levels in the spinal cord was consistent with the development of mechanical allodynia and thermal hypersensitivity. Intrathecal administration of the P2X(7)R antagonist Brilliant Blue G (BBG) reversed CCI-induced mechanical allodynia and thermal hypersensitivity. Double-labeled immunofluorescence showed that P2X(7)R expression were restricted to microglia, spinal microglia were activated after nerve injury, which was inhibited by BBG. These results indicated that spinal P2X(7)R mediate microglia activation, this process may play an important role in development of mechanical allodynia and thermal hypersensitivity in CCI model.
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