Resident Macrophages in Muscle Contribute to Development of Hyperalgesia in a Mouse Model of Noninflammatory Muscle Pain

J Pain. 2016 Oct;17(10):1081-1094. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2016.06.010. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


Macrophages play a role in innate immunity within the body, are located in muscle tissue, and can release inflammatory cytokines that sensitize local nociceptors. In this study we investigate the role of resident macrophages in the noninflammatory muscle pain model induced by 2 pH 4.0 preservative-free sterile saline (pH 4.0) injections 5 days apart in the gastrocnemius muscle. We showed that injecting 2 pH 4.0 injections into the gastrocnemius muscle increased the number of local muscle macrophages, and depleting muscle macrophages with clodronate liposomes before acid injections attenuated the hyperalgesia produced by this model. To further examine the contribution of local macrophages to this hyperalgesia, we injected mice intramuscularly with C34, a toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) antagonist. When given before the first pH 4.0 injection, C34 attenuated the muscle and tactile hyperalgesia produced by the model. However, when given before the second injection C34 had no effect on the development of hyperalgesia. Then to test whether activation of local macrophages sensitizes nociceptors to normally non-nociceptive stimuli we replaced either the first or second acid injection with the immune cell activator lipopolysaccharide, or the inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-6. Injecting LPS or IL-6 instead of the either the first or second pH 4.0 injection resulted in a dose-dependent increase in paw withdrawal responses and decrease in muscle withdrawal thresholds. The highest doses of LPS and IL-6 resulted in development of hyperalgesia bilaterally. The present study showed that resident macrophages in muscle are key to development of chronic muscle pain.

Perspective: This article presents evidence for the role of macrophages in the development of chronic muscle pain using a mouse model. These data suggest that macrophages could be a potential therapeutic target to prevent transition of acute to chronic muscle pain particularly in tissue acidosis conditions.

Keywords: Macrophages; cytokine; hyperalgesia; pain; proton.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chronic Pain / pathology
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hyperalgesia / pathology
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Myalgia / pathology
  • Myalgia / physiopathology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4