Peripheral Nerve Injury Triggers Neuroinflammation in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex and Ventral Hippocampus in a Subgroup of Rats with Coincident Affective Behavioural Changes

Neuroscience. 2019 Sep 15:416:147-167. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2019.08.005. Epub 2019 Aug 8.


Nerve damage leads to the development of disabling neuropathic pain in susceptible individuals, where patients present with pain as well as co-morbid affective behavioural disturbances, such as anhedonia, decreased motivation and depression. In this study we aimed to characterise changes in neuroinflammation in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hippocampus (HP) in a rat model of neuropathic pain (NP) and behavioural changes. 53 rats underwent sciatic nerve chronic constriction injury (CCI) and were characterised as either, No effect, Acute effect or Lasting effect on the basis of changes in exploration behaviour in a radial-arm maze. Microglial and astrocyte morphology, as well as IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, MCP-1, p38 MAPK and BDNF expression was quantified throughout the mPFC and HP using protein multiplex assays and immunofluorescence. All behavioural groups of CCI rats displayed equal levels of mechanical allodynia; however, the characteristic withdrawal from pellet-seeking observed in Lasting effect rats was accompanied by neuroimmune activation within the contralateral ventral HP and mPFC. This includes increased expression of IL-1β, IL-6 and MCP-1, increased phospho-p38 MAPK expression in neurons and microglia, and a shift to a reactive microglial morphology in the caudal PL and IL, ventral CA1 and DG. Therefore, neuroinflammation in the mPFC and ventral HP may influence individual differences in radial-arm maze behaviour following CCI. Our data provide further evidence that individual differences in neuroimmune activation in the interconnected ventral HP-mPFC circuitry may play a role in the divergent behavioural trajectories following nerve injury, with neuroinflammation being coincident with affective behavioural changes in susceptible individuals.

Keywords: affective behaviour; chronic constriction injury; medial prefrontal cortex; neuroinflammation; p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase; ventral hippocampus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neuralgia / metabolism
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / metabolism
  • Sciatic Neuropathy / physiopathology
  • Temporal Lobe / metabolism