Chemogenetic manipulation of microglia inhibits neuroinflammation and neuropathic pain in mice

Min Hee Yi, Yong U. Liu, Kevin Liu, Tingjun Chen, Dale B. Bosco, Jiaying Zheng, Manling Xie, Lijun Zhou, Wenchun Qu, Long Jun Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Microglia play an important role in the central sensitization and chronic pain. However, a direct connection between microglial function and pain development in vivo remains incompletely understood. To address this issue, we applied chemogenetic approach by using CX3CR1creER/+:R26LSL-hM4Di/+ transgenic mice to enable expression of inhibitory Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (Gi DREADD) in microglia. We found that microglial Gi DREADD activation inhibited spinal nerve transection (SNT)-induced microglial reactivity as well as chronic pain in both male and female mice. Gi DREADD activation downregulated the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 8 (IRF8) and its downstream target pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β). Using in vivo spinal cord recording, we found that activation of microglial Gi DREADD attenuated synaptic transmission following SNT. Our results demonstrate that microglial Gi DREADD reduces neuroinflammation, synaptic function and neuropathic pain after SNT. Thus, chemogenetic approaches provide a potential opportunity for interrogating microglial function and neuropathic pain treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • CX3CR1
  • Chemogenetics
  • IL-1β
  • IRF8
  • Microglia
  • Neuropathic pain
  • SNT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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