Volume 36, Issue. 12, December, 2020

Spinal Cord Stimulation Enhances Microglial Activation in the Spinal Cord of Nerve-Injured Rats

Bin Shu 1,2 • Shao-Qiu He 1 • Yun Guan 1,3

1 Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

2 Present Address: Department of Anesthesiology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430030, China

3 Department of Neurological Surgery, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA


Microglia can modulate spinal nociceptive transmission. Yet, their role in spinal cord stimulation (SCS)-induced pain inhibition is unclear. Here, we examined how SCS affects microglial activation in the lumbar cord of rats with chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve. Male rats received conventional SCS (50 Hz, 80% motor threshold, 180 min, 2 sessions/day) or sham stimulation on days 18–20 post-CCI. SCS transiently attenuated the mechanical hypersensitivity in the ipsilateral hind paw and increased OX-42 immunoreactivity in the bilateral dorsal horns. SCS also upregulated the mRNAs of M1-like markers, but not M2-like markers. Inducible NOS protein expression was increased, but brain-derived neurotrophic factor was decreased after SCS. Intrathecal minocycline (1 μg–100 μg), which inhibits microglial activation, dose-dependently attenuated the mechanical hypersensitivity. Pretreatment with low-dose minocycline (1 μg, 30 min) prolonged the SCS-induced pain inhibition. These findings suggest that conventional SCS may paradoxically increase spinal M1-like microglial activity and thereby compromise its own ability to inhibit pain.


Spinal cord stimulation; Microglia; Neuropathic pain; Spinal cord; Rat


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