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Eur J Pain. 2009 Oct;13(9):915-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2008.11.008. Epub 2008 Dec 17.

Role of spinal microglia in myositis-induced central sensitisation: an immunohistochemical and behavioural study in rats.

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  • 1Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 307, Heidelberg, Germany.


There is increasing evidence that spinal glial cells play an important role in chronic pain states. However, so far no data on the role of microglia in muscle pain are available. The aim of the present study was to investigate the involvement of spinal microglial cells in chronic muscle pain. In a rat model of chronic muscle inflammation (injection of complete Freund s adjuvant into the gastrocnemius-soleus muscle) alterations of microglia were visualized with quantitative OX-42 immunohistochemistry in the dorsal horn of the segments L4 and L5 12 days after induction of inflammation. In behavioural experiments the influence of chronic intrathecally applied minocycline - a specific microglia inhibitor - or an antibody against tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha; a cytokine released from microglia) on pain-related behaviour was investigated after 1, 3, 6, and 12 days. The immunhistochemical data show that in the deep laminae of the spinal dorsal horn microglial cells reacted with morphological changes to the muscle inflammation. Following inflammation, the mean boundary length surrounding the OX-42 immunostained area was significantly shorter. This indicates that microglial cells were activated by the myositis and withdrew their processes. Chronic intrathecal administration of minocycline or anti TNF-alpha with an osmotic mini-pump largely normalised the inflammation-induced changes in spontaneous exploratory behaviour and attenuated the hypersensitivity to mechanical stimulation. Both the immunohistochemical and behavioural data show that spinal microglial cells are involved in nociceptive processes in the cause of a chronic muscle inflammation.

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