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Normalization of cholesterol metabolism in spinal microglia alleviates neuropathic pain.


Neuroinflammation is a major component in the transition to and perpetuation of neuropathic pain states. Spinal neuroinflammation involves activation of TLR4, localized to enlarged, cholesterol-enriched lipid rafts, designated here as inflammarafts. Conditional deletion of cholesterol transporters ABCA1 and ABCG1 in microglia, leading to inflammaraft formation, induced tactile allodynia in naive mice. The apoA-I binding protein (AIBP) facilitated cholesterol depletion from inflammarafts and reversed neuropathic pain in a model of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) in wild-type mice, but AIBP failed to reverse allodynia in mice with ABCA1/ABCG1-deficient microglia, suggesting a cholesterol-dependent mechanism. An AIBP mutant lacking the TLR4-binding domain did not bind microglia or reverse CIPN allodynia. The long-lasting therapeutic effect of a single AIBP dose in CIPN was associated with anti-inflammatory and cholesterol metabolism reprogramming and reduced accumulation of lipid droplets in microglia. These results suggest a cholesterol-driven mechanism of regulation of neuropathic pain by controlling the TLR4 inflammarafts and gene expression program in microglia and blocking the perpetuation of neuroinflammation.

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