PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Anesthesiology and Pain Management - Neuroscience

Carbon Monoxide Reduces Neuropathic Pain and Spinal Microglial Activation by Inhibiting Nitric Oxide Synthesis in Mice
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Author: Arnau Hervera et al.

by Arnau Hervera, Sergi Leánez, Roger Negrete, Roberto Motterlini, Olga Pol


Carbon monoxide (CO) synthesized by heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) exerts antinociceptive effects during inflammation but its role during neuropathic pain remains unknown. Our objective is to investigate the exact contribution of CO derived from HO-1 in the modulation of neuropathic pain and the mechanisms implicated.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We evaluated the antiallodynic and antihyperalgesic effects of CO following sciatic nerve injury in wild type (WT) or inducible nitric oxide synthase knockout (NOS2-KO) mice using two carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CORM-2 and CORM-3) and an HO-1 inducer (cobalt protoporphyrin IX, CoPP) daily administered from days 10 to 20 after injury. The effects of CORM-2 and CoPP on the expression of HO-1, heme oxygenase 2 (HO-2), neuronal nitric oxide synthase (NOS1) and NOS2 as well as a microglial marker (CD11b/c) were also assessed at day 20 after surgery in WT and NOS2-KO mice. In WT mice, the main neuropathic pain symptoms induced by nerve injury were significantly reduced in a time-dependent manner by treatment with CO-RMs or CoPP. Both CORM-2 and CoPP treatments increased HO-1 expression in WT mice, but only CoPP stimulated HO-1 in NOS2-KO animals. The increased expression of HO-2 induced by nerve injury in WT, but not in NOS2-KO mice, remains unaltered by CORM-2 or CoPP treatments. In contrast, the over-expression of CD11b/c, NOS1 and NOS2 induced by nerve injury in WT, but not in NOS2-KO mice, were significantly decreased by both CORM-2 and CoPP treatments. These data indicate that CO alleviates neuropathic pain through the reduction of spinal microglial activation and NOS1/NOS2 over-expression.


This study reports that an interaction between the CO and nitric oxide (NO) systems is taking place following sciatic nerve injury and reveals that increasing the exogenous (CO-RMs) or endogenous (CoPP) production of CO may represent a novel strategy for the treatment of neuropathic pain.