Chronic inflammatory pain leads to increased blood-brain barrier permeability and tight junction protein alterations
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) maintains brain homeostasis by limiting entry of substances to the central nervous system through interaction of transmembrane and intracellular proteins that make up endothelial cell tight junctions (TJs). Recently it was shown that the BBB can be modulated by disease pathologies including inflammatory pain. This study examined the effects of chronic inflammatory pain on the functional and molecular integrity of the BBB. Inflammatory pain was induced by injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) into the right plantar hindpaw in female Sprague-Dawley rats under halothane anesthesia; control animals were injected with saline. Edema and hyperalgesia were assessed by plethysmography and infrared paw-withdrawal latency. At 72 h postinjection, significant edema formation and hyperalgesia were noted in the CFA-treated rats. Examination of permeability of the BBB by in situ perfusion of [14C]sucrose while rats were under pentobarbital anesthesia demonstrated that CFA treatment significantly increased brain sucrose uptake. Western blot analysis of BBB TJ proteins showed no change in expression of zonula occludens-1 (an accessory protein) or actin (a cytoskeletal protein) with CFA treatment. Expression of the transmembrane TJ proteins occludin and claudin-3 and -5 significantly changed with CFA treatment with a 60% decrease in occludin, a 450% increase in claudin-3, and a 615% increase in claudin-5 expression. This study demonstrates that during chronic inflammatory pain, alterations in BBB function are associated with changes in specific transmembrane TJ proteins.