Quantitative real-time RT-PCR assessment of spinal microglial and astrocytic activation markers in a rat model of neuropathic pain.Neurochem Int. 2004 Jul-Aug; 45(2-3):397-407.NI
Activated spinal glial cells have been strongly implicated in the development and maintenance of persistent pain states following a variety of stimuli including traumatic nerve injury. The present study was conducted to characterize the time course of surface markers indicative of microglial and astrocytic activation at the transcriptional level following an L5 nerve transection that results in behavioral hypersensitivity. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into a normal group, a sham surgery group with an L5 spinal nerve exposure and an L5 spinal nerve transected group. Mechanical allodynia (heightened response to a non-noxious stimulus) of the ipsilateral hind paw was assessed throughout the study. Spinal lumbar mRNA levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), integrin alpha M (ITGAM), toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and cluster determinant 14 (CD14) were assayed using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) at 4 h, 1, 4, 7, 14 and 28 days post surgery. The spinal lumbar mRNA expression of ITGAM, TLR4, and CD14 was upregulated at 4 h post surgery, CD14 peaked 4 days after spinal nerve transection while ITGAM and TLR4 continued to increase until day 14 and returned to almost normal levels by postoperative day 28. In contrast, spinal GFAP mRNA did not significantly increase until postoperative day 4 and then continued to increase over the duration of the study. Our optimized real-time RT-PCR method was highly sensitive, specific and reproducible at a wide dynamic range. This study demonstrates that peripheral nerve injury induces an early spinal microglial activation that precedes astrocytic activation using mRNA for surface marker expression; the delayed but sustained expression of mRNA coding for GFAP implicates astrocytes in the maintenance phase of persistent pain states. In summary, these data demonstrate a distinct spinal glial response following nerve injury using real-time RT-PCR.