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J Neurosci. 2007 Mar 7;27(10):2570-81.

Sciatic nerve ligation-induced proliferation of spinal cord astrocytes is mediated by kappa opioid activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Partial sciatic nerve ligation (pSNL) markedly increased glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactivity (GFAP-IR) 1 week after lesion in the L4-L5 spinal dorsal horn of wild-type, but not in dynorphin knock-out, mice lacking kappa opioid receptors (KOR-/-) or in wild-type mice pretreated with the KOR antagonist nor-binaltorphimine (norBNI). A direct effect of KOR on glial cell proliferation was suggested by the findings that primary cultures of type II GFAP-immunoreactive astrocytes isolated from mouse spinal cord express KOR. Sustained treatment with the kappa agonist U50,488 (trans-3,4-dichloro-N-methyl-N-[2-(1-pyrolytinil)-cyclohexyl]-benzeneacetamide methane sulfonate) significantly increased the proliferation rate of GFAP-immunoreactive astrocytes isolated from wild-type mice, and this effect was blocked by norBNI pretreatment. Proliferation of cultured type II astrocytes may have been stimulated by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation by KOR because (1) U50,488 treatment increased phospho-p38 MAPK-immunoreactivity 247 +/- 44% over untreated cells, (2) the increase in phospho-p38 induced by U50,488 was blocked by norBNI and not evident in KOR-/- cultures, and (3) GFAP-immunoreactive astrocyte proliferation induced by U50,488 was blocked by the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB 203580 [4-(4-fluorophenyl)-2-(4-methylsulfinylphenyl)-5-(4-pyridyl)-1H-imidazole]. Similar mechanisms of astrocyte activation may also be responsible in vivo because intrathecal injection of SB 203580 blocked the increased GFAP-IR in lumbar spinal cord induced by pSNL. Although the relationship between kappa-stimulated astrocyte proliferation and neuropathic pain mechanisms was not directly established in these studies, the results support the hypothesis that KOR activation induces spinal astrocyte proliferation, which may contribute to cellular reorganization after sciatic nerve damage.

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