Background: TANK-binding kinase (TBK1) is a non-canonical IκB kinase (IKK) involved in the regulation of type I interferons and of NF-κB signal transduction. It is activated by viral infections and inflammatory mediators and has therefore been associated with viral diseases, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis. Its role in pain has not been investigated so far. Due to the important roles of NF-κB, classical IκB Kinases and the IKK-related kinase, IKKε, in inflammatory nociception, we hypothesized that TBK1, which is suggested to form a complex with IKKε under certain conditions, might also alter the inflammatory nociceptive response.
Methods: We investigated TBK1 expression and regulation in "pain-relevant" tissues of C57BL/6 mice by immunofluorescence, quantitative PCR, and Western blot analysis. Furthermore, nociceptive responses and the underlying signal transduction pathways were assessed using TBK1(-/-) mice in two models of inflammatory nociception.
Results: Our data show that TBK1 is expressed and regulated in the spinal cord after peripheral nociceptive stimulation and that a deletion of TBK1 alleviated the inflammatory hyperalgesia in mice while motor function and acute nociception were not altered. TBK1-mediated effects are at least partially mediated by regulation of NF-κB dependent COX-2 induction but also by alteration of expression of c-fos via modulation of MAP kinases as shown in the spinal cord of mice and in cell culture experiments.
Conclusion: We suggest that TBK1 exerts pronociceptive effects in inflammatory nociception which are due to both modulation of NF-κB dependent genes and regulation of MAPKs and c-fos. Inhibition of TBK1 might therefore constitute a novel effective tool for analgesic therapy.