Aims: To investigate nociceptive behavior and the immunoreactivity of microglia and phosphorylated-p38 (p-p38) mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) following intracisternal administration of SB203580, a p38 MAPK inhibitor, or minocycline, a microglia inhibitor, in rats with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) inflammation.
Methods: The number of nociceptive behavioral responses was recorded for nine successive 5-minute intervals following formalin injections into the left TMJ. SB203580 or minocycline was administered intracisternally 2 hours prior to the formalin injection. Statistical analysis used one-way analysis of variance followed by least significant difference post-hoc analysis.
Results: The intra-articular injection of formalin increased the expression of p-p38 MAPK in the ipsilateral medullary dorsal horn. Most of the p-p38 MAPK co-localized with OX42, a microglial marker, but not with GFAP, an astrocyte marker. Intracisternal injections of SB203580 (0.5, 1, or 5 Μg) attenuated the number of nociceptive behavioral responses and the expression of p-p38 MAPK in the medullary dorsal horn. Intracisternal injections of minocycline (25 or 50 Μg) also attenuated the responses and the expression of OX42 and p-p38 MAPK in the medullary dorsal horn.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that p38 MAPK in microglia plays an important role in the central processing of inflammatory TMJ nociception in rats. The data further indicate that a targeted blockade of the microglial p38 MAPK pathway is a potentially important new treatment strategy for inflammatory TMJ nociception.