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Open Access Research

Co-induction of cyclooxyenase-2 and early growth response gene (Egr-1) in spinal cord in a clinical model of persistent inflammation and hyperalgesia

Sharron Dolan1*, Peter Hastie2, Claire Crossan1 and Andrea M Nolan2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, UK

2 College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK

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Molecular Pain 2011, 7:91  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-7-91

Published: 23 November 2011

Abstract

Background

This study characterised the effects of persistent peripheral inflammation of the foot on pain and spinal cord expression of cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 (COX-1 and COX-2) and early growth response gene 1 (Egr-1), known markers of neuronal plasticity, in a clinical model of naturally-occurring inflammatory disease and hyperalgesia in sheep ('footrot'), before and after routine treatment (parenteral treatment with antibiotics and antiseptic footbathing). The temporal pattern of expression of COX-1, COX-2 and Egr-1 mRNA and protein were analysed using real-time PCR and Western blotting.

Results

Animals affected with persistent peripheral inflammation displayed significant hyperalgesia and lameness (a proxy indicator of spontaneous pain) restricted to the inflamed limb. Hyperalgesia and lameness were significantly attenuated 1 day after treatment, and resolved further by day 7 and day 3, respectively. COX-2 but not COX-1, protein expression was up-regulated in spinal cord from lame animals on day 0, before treatment. Following treatment and attenuation of pain behaviours, levels of COX-2 returned to control levels. Significant induction of Egr-1 mRNA and protein were observed in spinal cord from lame animals. Three days after treatment, levels of Egr-1 mRNA returned to control levels, however, Egr-1 protein remained elevated.

Conclusion

Elevated levels of spinal COX-2 and Egr-1 protein correlate with the presence of pain and hyperalgesia, and may underlie persistent pain, although a direct causal link has still to be established. Understanding the temporal pattern of expression of key mediators in clinical pain states may lead to better strategies to manage pain.

Keywords:
Inflammation; pain; hyperalgesia; Egr-1; cyclooxygenase-2; spinal cord