Previously we developed a murine model in which postinjury stimulation of an injured area triggers a transition to a nociplastic pain state manifesting as persistent mechanical hypersensitivity outside of the previously injured area. This hypersensitivity was maintained by sex-specific mechanisms; specifically, activated spinal microglia maintained the hypersensitivity only in males. Here we investigated whether spinal microglia drive the transition from acute injury-induced pain to nociplastic pain in males, and if so, how they are activated by normally innocuous stimulation after peripheral injury. Using intraplantar capsaicin injection as an acute peripheral injury and vibration of the injured paw as postinjury stimulation, we found that inhibition of spinal microglia prevents the vibration-induced transition to a nociplastic pain state. The transition was mediated by the ATP-P2X4 pathway, but not BDNF-TrkB signaling. Intrathecally injected GABA receptor agonists after intraplantar capsaicin injection prevented the vibration-induced transition to a nociplastic pain state. Conversely, in the absence of intraplantar capsaicin injection, intrathecally injected GABA receptor antagonists allowed the vibration stimulation of a normal paw to trigger the transition to a spinal microglia-mediated nociplastic pain state only in males. At the spinal level, TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6, but not prostaglandins, contributed to the maintenance of the nociplastic pain state in males. These results demonstrate that in males, the transition from acute injury-induced pain to nociplastic pain is driven by spinal microglia causing neuroinflammation and that peripheral injury-induced spinal GABAergic disinhibition is pivotal for normally innocuous stimulation to activate spinal microglia.
- Nociplastic pain
- Proinflammatory cytokines
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience