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Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2008 Oct;21(5):570-9. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e32830edbdf.

Neuron-glia crosstalk gets serious: role in pain hypersensitivity.

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  • 1Department of Neural and Pain Sciences, Dental School and Program in Neuroscience, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland 21201-1586, USA.



Recent studies show that peripheral injury activates both neuronal and nonneuronal or glial components of the peripheral and central cellular circuitry. The subsequent neuron-glia interactions contribute to pain hypersensitivity. This review will briefly discuss novel findings that have shed light on the cellular mechanisms of neuron-glia interactions in persistent pain.


Two fundamental questions related to neuron-glia interactions in pain mechanisms have been addressed: what are the signals that lead to central glial activation after injury and how do glial cells affect central nervous system neuronal activity and promote hyperalgesia?


Evidence indicates that central glial activation depends on nerve inputs from the site of injury and release of chemical mediators. Hematogenous immune cells may migrate to/infiltrate the brain and circulating inflammatory mediators may penetrate the blood-brain barrier to participate in central glial responses to injury. Inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1beta released from glia may facilitate pain transmission through its coupling to neuronal glutamate receptors. This bidirectional neuron-glia signaling plays a key role in glial activation, cytokine production and the initiation and maintenance of hyperalgesia. Recognition of the contribution of the mutual neuron-glia interactions to central sensitization and hyperalgesia prompts new treatment for chronic pain.

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