P2X7 receptors (P2X7Rs) belong to a family of ATP-gated non-selective cation channels. Microglia represent a major cell type expressing P2X7Rs. The activation of microglial P2X7Rs causes the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1β (IL-1β). This response has been implicated in neuroinflammatory states in the central nervous system and in various diseases, including neuropathic pain. Thus, P2X7R may represent a potential therapeutic target. In the present study, we screened a chemical library of clinically approved drugs (1979 compounds) by high-throughput screening and showed that the Ca2+ channel blocker cilnidipine has an inhibitory effect on rodent and human P2X7R. In primary cultured rat microglial cells, cilnidipine inhibited P2X7R-mediated Ca2+ responses and IL-1β release. Moreover, in a rat model of neuropathic pain, the intrathecal administration of cilnidipine produced a reversal of nerve injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity, a cardinal symptom of neuropathic pain. These results point to a new inhibitory effect of cilnidipine on microglial P2X7R-mediated inflammatory responses and neuropathic pain, proposing its therapeutic potential.
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