Our previous studies have shown that early systemic granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) treatment can attenuate neuropathic pain in rats with chronic constriction injury (CCI) by modulating expression of different proinflammatory cytokines, microRNAs, and proteins. Besides the modulation of inflammatory mediators’ expression, previous studies have also reported that G-CSF can modulate autophagic and apoptotic activity. Furthermore, both autophagy and apoptosis play important roles in chronic pain modulation. In this study, we evaluated the temporal interactions of autophagy, and apoptosis in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and injured sciatic nerve after G-CSF treatment in CCI rats. We studied the behaviors of CCI rats with or without G-CSF treatment and the various levels of autophagic, proinflammatory, and apoptotic proteins in injured sciatic nerves and DRG neurons at different time points using Western blot analysis and immunohistochemical methods. The results showed that G-CSF treatment upregulated autophagic protein expression in the early phase and suppressed apoptotic protein expression in the late phase after nerve injury. Thus, medication such as G-CSF can modulate autophagy, apoptosis, and different proinflammatory proteins in the injured sciatic nerve and DRG neurons, which have the potential to treat neuropathic pain. However, autophagy-mediated regulation of neuropathic pain is a time-dependent process. An increase in autophagic activity in the early phase before proinflammatory cytokines reach the threshold level to induce neuropathic pain can effectively alleviate further neuropathic pain development.
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