Some patients undergoing thoracotomy may suffer from chronic post-thoracotomy pain (CPTP). Treatment of CPTP has been a clinical challenge and the underlying mechanisms of CPTP remain elusive. Recently, sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling has been shown to be associated with various pain states but its role in the pathogenesis of CPTP is still unclear.
CPTP was induced in rats by thoracotomy. Rats were divided into CPTP group and non-CPTP group based on the mechanical withdrawal threshold (MWT). Rats were administered with Shh signaling inhibitor cyclopamine and activator smoothened agonist (SAG), and then evaluated by MWT and cold allodynia testing. The expressions of Shh signaling (Shh ligand, patched and smoothened receptor, Gli transcription factors), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), tropomyosin-related kinase receptor B (Trk-B), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and protein kinase B (Akt) in rat T4-5 spinal cord dorsal horn (SDH) were detected by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry.
The expression of Shh signaling significantly increased and the BDNF/TrkB pathway was activated in T4-5 SDH of CPTP rats. Cyclopamine attenuated hyperalgesia and down-regulated the expressions of Gil1, BDNF, p-TrkB, p-PI3K and p-Akt in CPTP rats. SAG induced hyperalgesia in non-CPTP rats and elevated the expressions of Gil1, BDNF, p-TrkB, p-PI3K and p-Akt.