Frontiers in physiology

Estradiol treatment prevents injury induced enhancement in spinal cord dynorphin expression.

PMID 22371702


Administration of the ovarian steroid estradiol in male and female animals has been shown to have neuromodulatory and neuroprotective effects in a variety of experimental models. In the present study, spinal tissues from dermatomes just above (T5-T7, at level) a severe chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) at T8 were analyzed for expression levels of prodynorphin (PRDN) and phospho-(serine 369) κ-opioid receptor (KOR-P) in 17 β estradiol (EB)- and placebo-treated adult male rats. Dynorphin was targeted since (1) it has previously been shown to be elevated post-SCI, (2) intrathecal injection of dynorphin produces several of the same adverse effects seen with a SCI, and (3) its increased expression is known to occur in a variety of different experimental models of central neuropathic pain. A significant elevation of extracellular levels of both PRDN and KOR-P in the placebo-treated SCI group relative to uninjured surgical sham controls was found in spinal tissues above the injury level, indicating increased dynorphin levels. Importantly, the EB-treated SCI group did not show elevations of PRDN levels at 6 weeks post-injury. Immunohistochemical analysis of at level tissues revealed that EB treatment significantly prevented a post-SCI increase in expression of PRDN puncta co-labeling synapsin I, a nerve terminal marker. The dynorphin-containing terminals co-labeled vesicular glutamate receptor-2 (a marker of glutamatergic terminals), a finding consistent with a non-opioid basis for the adverse effects of dynorphin. These results support a beneficial role for EB treatment post-SCI through a reduction in excessive spinal cord levels of dynorphin. Studies manipulating the timing of the EB treatment post-injury along with specific functional assessments will address whether the beneficial effects are due to EB's potential neuromodulatory or neuroprotective action.