Pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) is a minimally invasive interventional technique that provides a novel and effective treatment strategy for neuropathic pain (NP). PRF is advantageous because it does not damage nerves and avoids sensory loss after treatment. At present, animal studies have demonstrated that PRF is safe and effective for relieving the NP associated with sciatic nerve damage in rats with chronic constriction injury (CCI). However, the mechanism through which this effect occurs is unknown. An increasing body of evidence shows that the expression of the P2X ligand-gated ion channel 3 (P2X 3) receptor is closely related to NP; this study was to investigate whether the expression of this receptor is involved in NP relief due to PRF.
A total of 36 healthy adult male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were randomly divided into three groups: Sham group, CCI group, and PRF group. The right sciatic nerve was ligated in CCI group and PRF group to establish a CCI model; the right sciatic nerve was separated but not ligated in Sham group. On day 14 after the operation, PRF was administered to the ligated sciatic nerve in PRF group (42°C, 45 V, 2 min). A non-live electrode was placed at the exposed sciatic nerve for the rats in Sham and CCI groups. The hindpaw withdrawal threshold (HWT) and thermal withdrawal latency (TWL) were measured at the right hindpaw at different time points before and after PRF or sham therapy. On day 28 after treatment, the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal dorsal horn of the right L4–6 were harvested from each group to determine the mRNA and protein levels of the P2X 3 receptor.
On day 28 after PRF treatment, the HWT (8.33 ± 0.67 g vs. 3.62 ± 0.48 g) and TWL (25.42 ± 1.90 s vs. 15.10 ± 1.71 s) were significantly higher in PRF group as compared to CCI group ( P < 0.05). The mRNA expression of the P2X 3 receptor in the DRG in PRF group was 23.7% lower than that in CCI group ( P < 0.05), in the spinal dorsal horns in PRF group was 22.7% lower than that in CCI group ( P < 0.05). The protein expression of the P2X 3 receptor in the DRG in PRF group was 27.8% lower than that in CCI group ( P < 0.05), in the spinal dorsal horns in PRF group was 35.6% lower than that in CCI group ( P < 0.05).