Chronic pain is one of the main symptoms of spinal disorders such as spinal canal stenosis. A major cause of this pain is related to compression of the spinal cord, and chronic pain can develop at the level of the compressed spinal segment. However, in many patients chronic pain arises in an area that does not correspond to the compressed segment, and the underlying mechanism involved remains unknown. This was investigated in the present study using a mouse model of spinal cord compression in which mechanical pain of the hindpaws develops after compression of the first lumbar segment (L1) of the spinal cord. Compression induced the activation of astrocytes in the L1 spinal dorsal horn (SDH)—but not the L4 SDH that corresponds to the hindpaws—and activated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3). Suppressing reactive astrocytes by expressing a dominant negative form of STAT3 (dnSTAT3) in the compressed SDH prevented mechanical pain. Expression of interleukin (IL)-6 was also upregulated in the compressed SDH, and it was inhibited by astrocytic expression of dnSTAT3. Intrathecal administration of a neutralizing anti-IL-6 antibody reversed the compression-induced mechanical pain. These results suggest that astrocytic STAT3 and IL-6 in the compressed SDH are involved in remote mechanical pain observed in the lower extremity, and may provide a target for treating chronic pain associated with spinal cord compression such as spinal canal stenosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience