Release of prostaglandin E(2) and nitric oxide from spinal microglia is dependent on activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase

Tomohiro Matsui, Camilla I Svensson, Yuka Hirata, Kanae Mizobata, Xiao-Ying Hua, Tony L Yaksh
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2010, 111 (2): 554-60

BACKGROUND: The spinal release of prostaglandins (PGs), nitric oxide (NO), and cytokines has been implicated in spinal nociceptive processing. Microglia represent a possible cell of origin for these proexcitatory mediators. Spinal microglia possess Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and neurokinin 1 (NK1) receptors, and both receptors play a significant role in peripheral nerve injury- and inflammation-induced spinal sensitization. Accordingly, we examined the properties of the cascades activated by the respective targets, which led to the release of PGE(2) and an increase in nitrite (NO(2)(-)) (a marker of NO) from cultured rat spinal microglia.

METHODS: Spinal microglia isolated from Sprague-Dawley neonatal rats were cultured with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or substance P (SP) alone, with LPS in combination with SP, and with LPS in the presence of each inhibitor of cyclooxygenase (COX), NO synthase 2 (NOS2) or p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38), or minocycline for 24 hours and 48 hours. Concentrations of PGE(2) and NO(2)(-) in culture supernatants were measured using an enzyme immunoassay and a colorimetric assay, respectively.

RESULTS: Application of LPS (a TLR4 ligand, 0.1 to 10 ng/mL) to cultured microglia produced a dose- and time-dependent increase in PGE(2) and NO(2)(-) production, whereas no effects were observed after incubation with SP (an NK1 agonist, up to 10(-5) M) alone or in combination with LPS. Antagonist studies with SC-560 (COX-1 inhibitor) and SC-236 (COX-2 inhibitor) showed that LPS-induced PGE(2) release was generated from both COX-1 and COX-2. LPS-induced NO release was suppressed by 1400W, an inhibitor of NOS2. Minocycline, an agent blocking microglial activation, and SB203580, an inhibitor of p38, both attenuated the LPS-induced PGE(2) and NO release. The 1400W, at the doses that suppressed NO release, also blocked increased PGE(2) release.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that (a) activation of spinal microglia via TLR4 but not NK1 receptors produces PGE(2) and NO release from these cells; (b) the evoked PGE(2) release is generated by both COX-1 and COX-2, and (c) the COX-PGE(2) pathway is regulated by p38 and NOS2. Taken together with our previous in vivo work, the current findings emphasize that p38 in spinal microglia is a key player in regulating production of pronociceptive molecules, such as PGE(2) and NO.

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