Prevention of NKCC1 phosphorylation avoids downregulation of KCC2 in central sensory pathways and reduces neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve injury.

PMID 24813295


Neuropathic pain after peripheral nerve injury is characterized by loss of inhibition in both peripheral and central pain pathways. In the adult nervous system, the Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) (NKCC1) and neuron-specific K(+)-Cl(-) (KCC2) cotransporters are involved in setting the strength and polarity of GABAergic/glycinergic transmission. After nerve injury, the balance between these cotransporters changes, leading to a decrease in the inhibitory tone. However, the role that NKCC1 and KCC2 play in pain-processing brain areas is unknown. Our goal was to study the effects of peripheral nerve injury on NKCC1 and KCC2 expression in dorsal root ganglia (DRG), spinal cord, ventral posterolateral (VPL) nucleus of the thalamus, and primary somatosensory (S1) cortex. After sciatic nerve section and suture in adult rats, assessment of mechanical and thermal pain thresholds showed evidence of hyperalgesia during the following 2 months. We also found an increase in NKCC1 expression in the DRG and a downregulation of KCC2 in spinal cord after injury, accompanied by later decrease of KCC2 levels in higher projection areas (VPL and S1) from 2 weeks postinjury, correlating with neuropathic pain signs. Administration of bumetanide (30 mg/kg) during 2 weeks following sciatic nerve lesion prevented the previously observed changes in the spinothalamic tract projecting areas and the appearance of hyperalgesia. In conclusion, the present results indicate that changes in NKCC1 and KCC2 in DRG, spinal cord, and central pain areas may contribute to development of neuropathic pain.