Central Nervous System Targets: Glial Cell Mechanisms in Chronic Pain.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Interactions between central glial cells and neurons in the pain circuitry are critical contributors to the pathogenesis of chronic pain. In the central nervous system (CNS), two major glial cell types predominate: astrocytes and microglia. Injuries or pathological conditions which evoke pain are concurrently associated with the presence of a reactive microglia or astrocyte state, which is characterized by a variety of changes in the morphological, molecular, and functional properties of these cells. In this review, we highlight the changes that reactive microglia and astrocytes undergo following painful injuries and insults and discuss the critical and interactive role these two cell types play in the initiation and maintenance of chronic pain. Additionally, we focus on several crucial mechanisms by which microglia and astrocytes contribute to chronic pain and provide commentary on the therapeutic promise of targeting these pathways. In particular, we discuss how the inflammasome in activated microglia drives maturation and release of key pro-inflammatory cytokines, which drive pain through neuronal- and glial regulations. Moreover, we highlight several potentially-druggable hemichannels and proteases produced by reactive microglia and astrocytes in pain states and discuss how these pathways regulate distinct phases during pain pathogenesis. We also review two emerging areas in chronic pain research: 1) sexually dimorphic glial cell signaling and 2) the role of oligodendrocytes. Finally, we highlight important considerations for potential pain therapeutics targeting glial cell mediators as well as questions that remain in our conceptual understanding of glial cell activation in pain states.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Donnelly, CR; Andriessen, AS; Chen, G; Wang, K; Jiang, C; Maixner, W; Ji, R-R

Published Date

  • July 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 846 - 860

PubMed ID

  • 32820378

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7609632

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1878-7479

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s13311-020-00905-7


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States