Astrocytes are highly glycolytic cells that play a crucial role in chronic pain. Recently it has been found that inflammation and metabolism are related to the inflammatory stimuli closely that cause cellular metabolic changes. Pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2) is a critical metabolic kinase in aerobic glycolysis or the Warburg effect. Besides, it also plays a crucial role in cell proliferation and signal transduction, but its role in astrocytes is still unclear.
The chronic inflammatory pain model was set up by intraplantar injection of complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) in Sprague Dawley (SD) rats as well as the cell model was constructed by lipopolysaccharide-treated primary astrocytes. Von Frey filament stimulation was used to continuously observe the changes of pain behavior in rats after modeling. Then, immunofluorescence staining and Western blot tests were used to observe the expression levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), pyruvate kinase (PKM2), signal transducers and activators of transcription 3 (STAT3) and high mobility group box-1 protein (HMGB1). After that, specific kits measured lactate contents. Finally, we observed the platelet-rich plasma’s (PRP) effect on mechanical hyperalgesia in rats with inflammatory pain induced by CFA and its effect on related signal molecules.
We found that in the CFA-induced inflammatory pain model, astrocytes were significantly activated, GFAP was increased, PKM2 was significantly up-regulated, and the glycolytic product lactate was increased. Also, intrathecal injection of PRP increased the pain threshold, inhibited the activation of astrocytes, and decreased the expression of PKM2 and aerobic glycolysis; in LPS-activated primary astrocytes as an in vitro model, we found PKM2 translocation activationSTAT3 signaling resulted in sustained activation of astrocyte marker GFAP, and the expression level and localization of p-STAT3 were correlated with PKM2. PRP could inhibit the activation of astrocytes, reduce the expression of PKM2 and the expression levels of glycolysis and GFAP, GLUT1, and p-STAT3 in astrocytes.
Our findings suggest PKM2 not only plays a glycolytic role in astrocytes, but also plays a crucial role in astrocyte-activated signaling pathways, and PRP attenuates CFA induced inflammatory pain by inhibiting aerobic glycolysis in astrocytes, providing a new therapeutic target for the treatment of inflammatory pain.