Growing evidence suggests that oxidative stress, as associated with spinal cord injury (SCI), may play a critical role in both neuroinflammation and neuropathic pain conditions. The production of the endogenous aldehyde acrolein, following lipid peroxidation during the inflammatory response, may contribute to peripheral sensitization and hyperreflexia following SCI via the TRPA1-dependent mechanism. Here, we report that there are enhanced levels of acrolein and increased neuronal sensitivity to the aldehyde for at least 14 days after SCI. Concurrent with injury-induced increases in acrolein concentration is an increased expression of TRPA1 in the lumbar (L3–L6) sensory ganglia. As proof of the potential pronociceptive role for acrolein, intrathecal injections of acrolein revealed enhanced sensitivity to both tactile and thermal stimuli for up to 10 days, supporting the compound's pro-nociceptive functionality. Treatment of SCI animals with the acrolein scavenger hydralazine produced moderate improvement in tactile responses as well as robust changes in thermal sensitivity for up to 49 days. Taken together, these data suggest that acrolein directly modulates SCI-associated pain behavior, making it a novel therapeutic target for preclinical and clinical SCI as an analgesic.
Following spinal cord injury (SCI), acrolein involvement in neuropathic pain is likely through direct activation and elevated levels of pro-nociceptive channel TRPA1. While acrolein elevation correlates with neuropathic pain, suppression of this aldehyde by hydralazine leads to an analgesic effect. Acrolein may serve as a novel therapeutic target for preclinical and clinical SCI to relieve both acute and chronic post-SCI neuropathic pain.