Spinal interleukin-16 mediates inflammatory pain via promoting glial activation
Proinflammatory cytokines are crucial contributors to neuroinflammation in the development of chronic pain. Here, we identified il16, which encodes interleukin-16 (IL-16), as a differentially expressed gene in spinal dorsal horn of a complete Freund’s Adjuvant (CFA) inflammatory pain model in mice by RNA sequencing. We further investigated whether and how IL-16 regulates pain transmission in the spinal cord and contributes to the development of inflammatory pain hypersensitivity. RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analysis revealed elevated IL-16 transcript levels in the spinal dorsal horn after CFA injection. This increase was further confirmed by qPCR, immunofluorescence, and western blotting. Knockdown of IL-16 by intrathecal injection of IL-16 siRNA not only attenuated CFA-induced mechanical and thermal pain hypersensitivity, but also inhibited enhanced c-fos expression and glial activation in the spinal dorsal horn in male mice injected with CFA. Moreover, exogenous IL-16 induced nociceptive responses and increased c-fos expression and glial activation in spinal dorsal horn. This effect was largely impaired when CD4, the binding receptor for IL-16, was inhibited. In addition, CD4 expression was upregulated in the spinal dorsal horn after CFA injection and CD4 was present in microglia and in contact with astrocytes and activated spinal neurons. Taken together, these results suggest that enhanced IL-16-CD4 signaling triggers pain and activates microglia and astrocytes in the spinal dorsal horn, thus contributing to inflammatory pain. IL-16 may serve as a promising target for the treatment of inflammatory pain.
Keywords: CD4; Inflammatory Pain; Interleukin-16; Microglia; Spinal dorsal horn.