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Exp Neurol. 2008 Apr;210(2):286-94. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2007.11.024. Epub 2007 Dec 4.

Activated polymorphonuclear cells promote injury and excitability of dorsal root ganglia neurons.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Women and Infants' Hospital, Brown Medical School, Providence, RI 02903, USA.


Therapies aimed at depleting or blocking the migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN or neutrophils) are partially successful in the treatment of neuroinflammatory conditions and in attenuating pain following peripheral nerve injury or subcutaneous inflammation. However, the functional effects of PMN on peripheral sensory neurons such as dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons are largely unknown. We hypothesized that PMN are detrimental to neuronal viability in culture and increase neuronal activity and excitability. We demonstrate that isolated peripheral PMN are initially in a relatively resting state but undergo internal oxidative burst and activation by an unknown mechanism within 10 min of co-culture with dissociated DRG cells. Co-culture for 24 h decreases neuronal count at a threshold<0.4:1 PMN:DRG cell ratio and increases the number of injured and apoptotic neurons. Within 3 min of PMN addition, fluorometric calcium imaging reveals intracellular calcium transients in small size (<25 microm diam) and large size (>25 microm diam) neurons, as well as in capsaicin-sensitive neurons. Furthermore, small size isolectin B4-labeled neurons undergo hyperexcitability manifested as decreased current threshold and increased firing frequency. Although co-culture of PMN and DRG cells does not perfectly model neuroinflammatory conditions in vivo, these findings suggest that activated PMN can potentially aggravate neuronal injury and cause functional changes to peripheral sensory neurons. Distinguishing the beneficial from the detrimental effects of PMN on neurons may aid in the development of more effective drug therapies for neurological disorders involving neuroinflammation, including painful neuropathies.

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