• astrocyte;
  • chemokines;
  • chronic pain;
  • complete Freund's adjuvant;
  • neuroinflammation


Ligustilide (LIG) is a major component of Radix Angelica Sinensis, and reportedly has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Recent studies have demonstrated that spinal astrocyte-mediated neuroinflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of chronic pain. Here we investigated the anti-nociceptive effect of systemic treatment with LIG on chronic inflammatory pain and explored possible mechanisms. Unilateral hindpaw injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) induced persistent pain hypersensitivity. Repeated daily intravenous treatment with LIG, either before or after CFA injection, attenuated CFA-induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia. The same treatment also inhibited CFA-induced keratinocyte-derived chemokine (KC) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) mRNA and protein increases in astrocytes of the spinal cord. In vitro study showed LIG dose-dependently reduced lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced upregulation of KC and MCP-1 mRNA in astrocyte cultures. Interestingly, LIG treatment did not affect CFA- or LPS-induced glial fibrillary acidic protein upregulation, but did inhibit CFA-induced phosphorylated nuclear factor-κB (p-NFκB) upregulation in spinal astrocytes. Furthermore, intrathecal injection of NFκB inhibitor attenuated CFA-induced pain hypersensitivity and upregulation of KC and MCP-1 in the spinal cord. Finally, single intravenous injection of LIG attenuated intrathecal injection of LPS-induced mechanical allodynia. The same treatment also decreased LPS-induced NFκB activation and KC and MCP-1 upregulation in the spinal cord. These data indicate that LIG attenuates chronic inflammatory pain potentially via inhibiting NFκB-mediated chemokines production in spinal astrocytes. These results provide direct evidence of the anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of LIG, suggesting a new application of LIG for the treatment of chronic inflammatory pain.