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Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Oct;112(1):116-38. Epub 2006 May 30.

Hypernociceptive role of cytokines and chemokines: targets for analgesic drug development?

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Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto University of São Paulo, Av. Bandeirantes, 3900, 14049-900, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil.


Pain is one of the classical signs of the inflammatory process in which sensitization of the nociceptors is the common denominator. This sensitization causes hyperalgesia or allodynia in humans, phenomena that involve pain perception (emotional component+nociceptive sensation). As this review focuses mainly on animal models, which don't allow discrimination of the emotional component, the terms nociception and hypernociception are used to describe overt behavior induced by mechanical stimulation and increase of nociceptor sensitivity, respectively. Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines are endogenous small protein mediators released by local or migrating cells whose balance modulates the intensity of inflammatory response. The inflammatory stimuli or tissue injuries stimulate the release of characteristic cytokine cascades, which ultimately trigger the release of final mediators responsible for inflammatory pain. These final mediators, such as prostanoids or sympathetic amines, act directly on the nociceptors to cause hypernociception, which results from the lowering of threshold due to modulation of specific voltage-dependent sodium channels. Furthermore, a direct effect of cytokines on nociceptors is also described. On the other hand, there are also anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-10, IL-4 and IL-13, and IL-1 receptor antagonists (IL-1ra), which inhibit the production of hypernociceptive cytokines and/or the final hypernociceptive mediators, preventing the installation of or the increase in the hypernociception. This review highlights the importance of the direct and indirect actions of cytokines and chemokines in inflammatory and neuropathic hypernociception, emphasizing the evidence suggesting these molecules are potential targets to develop novel drugs and therapies for the treatment of pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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