Regulatory role of capsaicin-sensitive peptidergic sensory nerves in the proteoglycan-induced autoimmune arthritis model of the mouse

J Neuroinflammation. 2018 Dec 3;15(1):335. doi: 10.1186/s12974-018-1364-5.


Objective: The regulatory role of capsaicin-sensitive peptidergic sensory nerves has been shown in acute inflammation, but little is known about their involvement in T/B-cell driven autoimmune arthritis. This study integratively characterized the function of these nerve endings in the proteoglycan-induced chronic arthritis (PGIA), a translational model of rheumatoid arthritis.

Methods: Peptidergic afferents were defunctionalized by resiniferatoxin (RTX) pretreatment in BALB/c mice, PGIA was induced by repeated antigen challenges. Hind paw volume, arthritis severity, grasping ability and the mechanonociceptive threshold were monitored during the 17-week experiment. Myeloperoxidase activity, vascular leakage and bone turnover were evaluated by in vivo optical imaging. Bone morphology was assessed using micro-CT, the intertarsal small joints were processed for histopathological analysis.

Results: Following desensitization of the capsaicin-sensitive afferents, ankle edema, arthritis severity and mechanical hyperalgesia were markedly diminished. Myeloperoxidase activity was lower in the early, but increased in the late phase, whilst plasma leakage and bone turnover were not altered. Desensitized mice displayed similar bone spurs and erosions, but increased trabecular thickness of the tibia and bony ankylosis of the spine. Intertarsal cartilage thickness was not altered in the model, but desensitization increased this parameter in both the non-arthritic and arthritic groups.

Conclusion: This is the first integrative in vivo functional and morphological characterization of the PGIA mouse model, wherein peptidergic afferents have an important regulatory function. Their overall effect is proinflammatory by increasing acute inflammation, immune cell activity and pain. Meanwhile, their activation decreases spinal ankylosis, arthritis-induced altered trabecularity, and cartilage thickness in small joints.

Keywords: Experimental arthritis; Mouse model; Neurogenic inflammation; Nociception; Rheumatoid arthritis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ankle / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / chemically induced*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Cartilage / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Diterpenes / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / drug effects
  • Hindlimb / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neurotoxins / pharmacology
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Proteoglycans / toxicity*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sensory System Agents / pharmacology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / drug effects*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging


  • Diterpenes
  • Neurotoxins
  • Peptides
  • Proteoglycans
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Sensory System Agents
  • resiniferatoxin
  • Capsaicin