Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is upregulated in the cervical dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord and contributes to the maintenance of pain from facet joint injury in the rat.J Neurosci Res. 2013 Oct; 91(10):1312-21.JN
The facet joint is commonly associated with neck and low back pain and is susceptible to loading-induced injury. Although tensile loading of the cervical facet joint has been associated with inflammation and neuronal hyperexcitability, the mechanisms of joint loading-induced pain remain unknown. Altered brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels are associated with a host of painful conditions, but the role of BDNF in loading-induced joint pain remains undefined. Separate groups of rats underwent a painful cervical facet joint distraction or a sham procedure. Bilateral forepaw mechanical hypersensitivity was assessed and BDNF mRNA and protein levels were quantified in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord at days 1 and 7. Facet joint distraction induced significant (P < 0.001) mechanical hypersensitivity at both time points. Painful joint distraction did not alter BDNF mRNA in the DRG compared with sham levels but did significantly increase (P < 0.016) BDNF protein expression over sham in the DRG at day 7. Painful distraction also significantly increased BDNF mRNA (P = 0.031) and protein expression (P = 0.047) over sham responses in the spinal cord at day 7. In a separate study, intrathecal administration of the BDNF-sequestering molecule trkB-Fc on day 5 after injury partially attenuated behavioral sensitivity after joint distraction and reduced pERK in the spinal cord at day 7 (P < 0.045). Changes in BDNF after painful facet joint injury and the effect of spinal BDNF sequestration in partially reducing pain suggest that BDNF signaling contributes to the maintenance of loading-induced facet pain but that additional cellular responses are also likely involved.