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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Expression of neurotrophic factors in the dorsal root ganglion in a rat model of lumbar disc herniation

Koichi Obata, Hiroaki Tsujino, Hiroki Yamanaka, Dai Yi, Tetsuo Fukuoka, Norio Hashimoto, Kazuo Yonenobu, Hideki Yoshikawa, Koichi Noguchi
Pain 2002, 99 (1): 121-32
12237190
A variety of molecules released by inflammatory reactions in the dorsal root and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) may play important roles in the pathology of neuronal abnormalities in lumbar disc herniation. In order to elucidate the pathophysiological mechanisms of painful radiculopathy, secondary to lumbar disc herniation, we evaluated pain-related behavior and the change of nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the DRG and dorsal root using a rat model of lumbar disc herniation. In the nucleus pulposus (NP) group, the left L4/5 nerve roots were exposed after hemilaminectomies and autologous intervertebral discs, which were obtained from coccygeal intervertebral discs, were implanted on each of the exposed nerve roots without mechanical compression. Rats in the NP group, but not the sham-operated rats, developed mechanical allodynia on the ipsilateral hind paw for 1 day after surgery and showed a significant increase in the number of NGF-immunoreactive (IR) cells in the nerve root and DRG. NGF-IR cells in the nerve root and DRG included macrophages and Schwann cells, because these cells were labeled for NGF and ED-1 or glial fibrillary acid protein by dual immunostaining. A significant increase in the percentage of BDNF-IR neurons in the DRG was observed in the NP group at 3 days after surgery and the increase in BDNF mRNA expression was confirmed using in situ hybridization histochemistry and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. We also injected NGF into the endoneurial space of the normal rat spinal nerve root and found that the NGF injection produced dose-dependent mechanical allodynia on the ipsilateral hind paw at 1 day after surgery and an increase in the percentage of BDNF-IR neurons in the DRG at 3 days after surgery compared to the group receiving saline injection. These findings suggest that in the lumbar disc herniation model, i.e. neuritis of the nerve root, increased NGF produced by the inflammatory responses in the dorsal root and DRG tissues may affect the production of BDNF in the DRG and may play important roles in the modulation of the dorsal horn neurons. These changes in neurotrophic factors in the primary afferents may be involved in the pathophysiological mechanisms of neuropathic pain produced by lumbar disc herniation.

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