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Cytokine. 2015 Feb;71(2):207-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2014.10.028. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Depletion of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells increases severity of mechanical allodynia and significantly alters systemic cytokine levels following peripheral nerve injury.

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School of Medical Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
School of Medical Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Electronic address:


Neuropathic pain is a debilitating condition caused by damage to the somatosensory nervous system, such as peripheral nerve injury. The immune system, and in particular the adaptive T cell response, plays a key role in mediating such pain. Regulatory T (Treg) cells are a small subpopulation of inhibitory T cells that prevent autoimmunity, limit immunopathology and maintain immune homeostasis. Here, we investigated the effects of conditional depletion of Treg cells on mechanical allodynia and serum cytokines in mice with chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve, an animal model of neuropathic pain. We demonstrate that CCI induced the infiltration of small numbers of Treg cells within effected neuronal tissue. Utilising the transgenic DEREG (DEpletion of REGulatory T cells) mice, we confirmed effective depletion of Foxp3+ Treg cells by diphtheria toxin injections. Following CCI we observed a transient, though significant, increase in pain hypersensitivity for Treg-depleted DEREG mice compared to non-Treg-depleted mice. Analysis of systemic cytokine levels demonstrated significant changes in serum cytokine expression profiles. In particular, we observed significant increases in systemic concentration of RANTES, IL-2 and IL-5, and significant decreases in IL-12 and IFN-γ in nerve-injured Treg-depleted DEREG mice. Further analysis indicated a substantial increase in the serum concentration of IL-12p40 as a direct result of Treg cell depletion. These results suggest that depletion of Foxp3+ Treg cells promote nerve injury-induced pain hypersensitivity, partially by inducing altered systemic concentrations of cytokines, which may act to regulate neuropathic pain.


Chronic constriction injury; DEREG; Neuropathic pain; Systemic cytokines; Treg

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