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Neuroscience. 2007 Jan 5;144(1):275-85. Epub 2006 Oct 25.

Regulation of proinflammatory cytokines gene expression by nociceptin/orphanin FQ in the spinal cord and the cultured astrocytes.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Medicine and Neurobiology, Institute of Acupuncture Research, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, P.O. Box 291, 138 Yi Xue Yuan Road, Shanghai 200032, China.


Peripheral inflammation induces central sensitization characterized by the development of allodynia and hyperalgesia to thermal stimuli. Recent evidence suggests that activation of glial cells and a subsequent increase in proinflammatory cytokines contribute to the development of behavioral hypersensitivity after nerve injury or peripheral inflammation. The neuropeptide nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ), the endogenous agonist of the N/OFQ peptide receptor (ORL1 receptor), has been demonstrated to play an important role in modulation of nociceptive signals. In the present study, we investigated: (1) astrocyte activation and proinflammatory cytokine expression at the lumbar spinal cord following intraplantar administration of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) in rats; (2) the mechanism of N/OFQ on nociception modulation, the relationship between N/OFQ and cytokines in the rat CNS in vivo and in vitro. The results showed: (1) CFA-induced peripheral inflammation evoked robust astrocyte activation and proinflammatory cytokines spinally; (2) down-regulation of cytokine mRNA transcripts by intrathecal administration of N/OFQ, the effects produced by N/OFQ were abolished by combination with ORL1 receptor-specific antagonist [Nphe(1)]N/OFQ(1-13)NH2; (3) ORL1 receptor was expressed on astrocytes of rat spinal cord; (4) cytokine gene expression was inhibited in astrocyte cultures exposed to N/OFQ, the inhibiting effects of N/OFQ were significantly blocked by [Nphe(1)]N/OFQ(1-13)NH2. The present data demonstrated that astrocyte activation and enhanced cytokine expression at the CNS had a role in eliciting behavioral hypersensitivity; the anti-nociception function of N/OFQ might be dependent on cytokines derived from astrocytes, the effects were attributable to the ORL1 receptor pathway.

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