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J Physiol. 2008 Jan 15;586(2):593-604. Epub 2007 Nov 15.

Disruption of axoplasmic transport induces mechanical sensitivity in intact rat C-fibre nociceptor axons.

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Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Management, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Peripheral nerve inflammation can cause axons conducting through the inflamed site to become mechanically sensitive. Axonal mechanical sensitivity (AMS) of intact axons may explain symptoms in a diverse number of conditions characterized by radiating pain evoked by movements of the affected nerve. Because nerve inflammation also disrupts axoplasmic transport, we hypothesized that the disruption of axoplasmic transport by nerve inflammation could cause the cellular components responsible for mechanical transduction to accumulate and become inserted at the inflamed site, causing AMS. This was tested by examining AMS in C-fibre nociceptors following the application of axoplasmic transport blockers (colchicine and vinblastine) to the sciatic nerve. Both 10 mm colchicine and 0.1 mm vinblastine caused AMS to develop in 30.6% and 33.3% of intact axons, respectively (P < 0.05 compared to sham treatment). Since high doses of colchicine (> 50 mm) can damage axons, and inflammation is involved in the removal of axonal debris, experiments were performed to assess conduction across the treatment site as well as signs of inflammation. Results indicated minimal axonal loss (95% of A- and C-fibres conducting), consistent with the normal microscopic appearance of the colchicine treatment site and absence of ED1-positive (recruited) macrophages. In a separate series of experiments, the block of axoplasmic transport proximal to a localized neuritis significantly reduced inflammation-induced AMS (15.6% compared to 55.6%; P < 0.05), further supporting that the components necessary for AMS are moved by anterograde transport. In summary, nerve inflammation that causes the disruption of axoplasmic transport in patients with painful conditions may result in the accumulation and insertion of mechanosensitive elements at the inflamed site.

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