Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a multifunctional cytokine whose actions include modulation of proliferation, differentiation, and maturation of hemapoietic progenitors and other cell lineages; growth regulation of certain carcinoma cell lines; and control of cellular metabolic activities. Initially described in terms of its activities in the immune system and inflammation, accumulating evidence supports an essential role of IL-6 in the development, differentiation, regeneration and degeneration of neurons in the peripheral and central nervous system. We have previously demonstrated that immunoreactive-like IL-6 protein is significantly elevated in the spinal cord in response to peripheral nerve injury that results in neuropathic pain behaviors in the rat. In the current study, our objective was to determine if the source of IL-6 protein was endogenous to the central nervous system by measuring any detectable increases in spinal IL-6 mRNA expression following established mononeuropathy procedures associated with neuropathic pain: spinal nerve cryoneurolysis (SPCN) or spinal nerve tight ligation (SPTL). Using in situ hybridization and a digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotide, IL-6 mRNA in neurons was significantly elevated at 3 and 7 days post SPCN and 7 days post SPTL in both dorsal and ventral horns. The cellular localization of the IL-6 mRNA expression was predominately neuronal as confirmed by NeuN serial staining. For example, in the SPCN 7 day group, IL-6 mRNA cell profiles in the ipsilateral dorsal horn were significantly different from the normal group (38.7+/-12.8 vs. 4.89+/-1.6, p<0.001). These data demonstrate the central, spinal production of a proinflammatory cytokine in response to a peripheral nerve injury. In addition, these results add to the growing body of literature implicating these immune products, cytokines, as potential neuromodulators/neurotransmitters and provides further evidence for their role in the nociceptive processing which leads to chronic pain.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.