Background: Aconiti brachypodi Radix (Xue-shang-yi-zhi-hao) has been prescribed to manage chronic pain, arthritis, and traumatic injuries. Bullatine A, a C20-diterpenoid alkaloid, is one of its principle effective compounds. This study aimed to investigate the anti-hypersensitivity of bullatine A in a variety of rat pain models and explore its mechanisms of action. Methods: Rat neuropathic pain, inflammatory pain, diabetic neuropathic pain, and bone cancer pain models were used. Dynorphin A and pro-inflammatory cytokines were measured in the spinal cord and cultured primary microglia. Double immunofluorescence staining of dynorphin A and glial and neuronal cellular markers was also measured in the spinal cord. Results: Subcutaneous and intrathecal injection of bullatine A dose-dependently attenuated spinal nerve ligation-, complete Freud's adjuvant-, diabetes-, and bone cancer-induced mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia, with the efficacies of 45-70 % inhibition, and half-effective doses of 0.9-1.9 mg/kg for subcutaneous injection. However, bullatine A was not effective in blocking acute nociceptive response in the normal condition. Bullatine A specifically stimulated dynorphin A expression in microglia in the spinal cord in vivo and cultured primary microglia in vitro; the stimulatory effects were completely inhibited by the microglial inhibitor minocycline. In contrast, bullatine A did not have an inhibitory effect on peripheral nerve injury- or lipopolysaccharide-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression. The spinal anti-allodynic effects of bullatine A were entirely blocked by intrathecal injection of minocycline, the specific dynorphin A antiserum, and the selective k-opioid receptor antagonist. Conclusions: We, for the first time, demonstrate that bullatine A specifically attenuates pain hypersensitivity, regardless of the pain models employed. The results also suggest that stimulation of spinal microglial dynorphin A expression mediates bullatine A anti-nociception in pain hypersensitivity conditions.
Huang, Q., Mao, X. F., Wu, H. Y., Li, T. F., Sun, M. L., Liu, H., & Wang, Y. X. (2016). Bullatine A stimulates spinal microglial dynorphin A expression to produce anti-hypersensitivity in a variety of rat pain models. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12974-016-0696-2