Although we have recently demonstrated that carrageenan-induced inflammation upregulates the expression of spinal interleukin (IL)-1β, which inhibits spinal astrocyte activation and results in the delayed development of Mirror-Image Pain (MIP), little is known regarding the mechanisms that underlie how spinal IL-1β inhibits the astrocyte activation. In this study, we examined the effect of spinal IL-1β on astrocyte gap junctions (GJ) and the development of MIP. Following unilateral carrageenan (CA) injection, mechanical allodynia (MA) was evaluated at various time points. Immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis were used to determine changes in the expression of GFAP and connexins (Cx) in the spinal cord dorsal horn. Carrageenan rats showed a delayed onset of contralateral MA, which mimicked the temporal expression pattern of spinal Cx43 (an astrocyte gap junctional protein) and GFAP. Intrathecal administration of an interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) twice-a-day on post-carrageenan injection days 0 to 3 caused a significant increase in contralateral MA and spinal Cx43 and GFAP expression. In addition, co-administration of IL-1β with IL-1ra blocked the IL-1ra-induced increase in contralateral MA and the upregulated expression of spinal Cx43 and GFAP. Finally, co-administration of carbenoxolone (CBX; a GJ decoupler) or Gap26 (a specific Cx43 mimetic blocking peptide) with IL-1ra significantly blocked the IL-1ra-induced early development of contralateral MA and the associated upregulation of spinal Cx43 and GFAP expression. These results demonstrate that spinal IL-1β suppresses Cx43 expression and astrocyte activation during the early phase of CA-induced inflammation resulting in the delayed onset of contralateral MA. These findings imply that spinal IL-1β can inhibit astrocyte activation and regulate the time of induction of contralateral MA through modulation of spinal Cx43 expression.
- Connexin 43
- Mirror-image pain