A Fatal Alliance between Microglia, Inflammasomes, and Central Pain

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 May 26;21(11):3764. doi: 10.3390/ijms21113764.

Abstract

Microglia are the resident immune cells in the CNS, which survey the brain parenchyma for pathogens, initiate inflammatory responses, secrete inflammatory mediators, and phagocyte debris. Besides, they play a role in the regulation of brain ion homeostasis and in pruning synaptic contacts and thereby modulating neural networks. More recent work shows that microglia are embedded in brain response related to stress phenomena, the development of major depressive disorders, and pain-associated neural processing. The microglia phenotype varies between activated-toxic-neuroinflammatory to non-activated-protective-tissue remodeling, depending on the challenges and regulatory signals. Increased inflammatory reactions result from brain damage, such as stroke, encephalitis, as well as chronic dysfunctions, including stress and pain. The dimension of damage/toxic stimuli defines the amplitude of inflammation, ranging from an on-off event to low but continuous simmering to uncontrollable. Pain, either acute or chronic, involves inflammasome activation at the point of origin, the different relay stations, and the sensory and processing cortical areas. This short review aimed at identifying a sinister role of the microglia-inflammasome platform for the development and perpetuation of acute and chronic central pain and its association with changes in CNS physiology.

Keywords: NLRP; inflammasome; microglia; neuroinflammation; pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Pain / physiopathology

Substances

  • Inflammasomes