A toll-like receptor 9 antagonist reduces pain hypersensitivity and the inflammatory response in spinal cord injury

Brian T. David, Ayomi Ratnayake, Matthew A. Amarante, Naresh Parvath Reddy, Wei Dong, Sujitha Sampath, Robert F. Heary, Stella Elkabes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are mediators of the innate immune response to exogenous pathogens. They have also been implicated in sterile inflammation associated with systemic injury and non-infectious diseases via binding of endogenous ligands, possibly released by damaged cells. Emerging evidence indicates that some TLRs play a role in nervous system injury and especially in injury-elicited pain and sterile inflammation. However, no information is available about the contribution of TLR9, a member of the TLR family, to traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Moreover, the therapeutic potential of TLR9 ligands in the functional outcomes of SCI, including pain, has not been explored. We report, for the first time, that the intrathecal administration of a TLR9 antagonist, cytidine-phosphate-guanosine oligodeoxynucleotide 2088 (CpG ODN 2088), to mice sustaining a severe contusion SCI, diminishes injury-induced heat hypersensitivity. Investigations on the potential mechanisms underlying the reduction in pain sensitivity indicated an attenuation of the inflammatory reaction manifested by a decrease in the number of CD11b-, CD45- and CD3-immunoreactive cells and a reduction in tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) expression at the epicenter. Conversely, intrathecal delivery of a TLR9 agonist, CpG ODN 1826, increased inflammatory cell numbers and TNF-α expression in the epicenter. The CpG ODN 2088 treatment did not appear to induce systemic adverse effects as shown by spleen histology and serum cytokine levels. We propose that CpG ODN 2088 dampens injury-induced heat hypersensitivity by suppressing the inflammatory response and TNF-α expression. This investigation defines a previously unreported therapeutic role for CpG ODN 2088 in SCI-induced pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-205
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology


  • Allodynia
  • CpG ODN
  • Cytokine
  • Innate immunity
  • TLR


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