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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Jul 6;96(14):7710-3.

Implications of immune-to-brain communication for sickness and pain.

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Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


This review presents a view of hyperalgesia and allodynia not typical of the field as a whole. That is, exaggerated pain is presented as one of many natural consequences of peripheral infection and injury. The constellation of changes that results from such immune challenges is called the sickness response. This sickness response results from immune-to-brain communication initiated by proinflammatory cytokines released by activated immune cells. In response to signals it receives from the immune system, the brain orchestrates the broad array of physiological, behavioral, and hormonal changes that comprise the sickness response. The neurocircuitry and neurochemistry of sickness-induced hyperalgesia are described. One focus of this discussion is on the evidence that spinal cord microglia and astrocytes are key mediators of sickness-induced hyperalgesia. Last, evidence is presented that hyperalgesia and allodynia also result from direct immune activation, rather than neural activation, of these same spinal cord glia. Such glial activation is induced by viruses such as HIV-1 that are known to invade the central nervous system. Implications of exaggerated pain states created by peripheral and central immune activation are discussed.

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