Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

VEGFR2 promotes central endothelial activation and the spread of pain in inflammatory arthritis

Beazley-Long, Nicholas; Moss, Catherine Elizabeth; Ashby, William Robert; Bestall, Samuel Marcus; Almahasneh, Fatimah; Durrant, Alexandra Margaret; Benest, Andrew Vaughan; Blackley, Zoe; Hirashima, Masanori; Ballmer-Hofer, Kurt; Hulse, Richard Phillip; Bates, David Owen; Donaldson, Lucy Frances


Nicholas Beazley-Long

Catherine Elizabeth Moss

William Robert Ashby

Samuel Marcus Bestall

Fatimah Almahasneh

Alexandra Margaret Durrant

Zoe Blackley

Masanori Hirashima

Kurt Ballmer-Hofer

Richard Phillip Hulse

Professor of Sensory Physiology


Chronic pain can develop in response to conditions such as inflammatory arthritis. The central mechanisms underlying the development and maintenance of chronic pain in humans are not well elucidated although there is evidence for a role of microglia and astrocytes. However in pre-clinical models of pain, including models of inflammatory arthritis, there is a wealth of evidence indicating roles for pathological glial reactivity within the CNS. In the spinal dorsal horn of rats with painful inflammatory arthritis we found both a significant increase in CD11b+ microglia-like cells and GFAP+ astrocytes associated with blood vessels, and the number of activated blood vessels expressing the adhesion molecule ICAM-1, indicating potential glio-vascular activation. Using pharmacological interventions targeting VEGFR2 in arthritic rats, to inhibit endothelial cell activation, the number of dorsal horn ICAM-1+ blood vessels, CD11b+ microglia and the development of secondary mechanical allodynia, an indicator of central sensitization, were all prevented. Targeting endothelial VEGFR2 by inducible Tie2-specific VEGFR2 knock-out also prevented secondary allodynia in mice and glio-vascular activation in the dorsal horn in response to inflammatory arthritis. Inhibition of VEGFR2 in vitro significantly blocked ICAM-1-dependent monocyte adhesion to brain microvascular endothelial cells, when stimulated with inflammatory mediators TNF-α and VEGF-A165a. Taken together our findings suggest that a novel VEGFR2-mediated spinal cord glio-vascular mechanism may promote peripheral CD11b+ circulating cell transmigration into the CNS parenchyma and contribute to the development of chronic pain in inflammatory arthritis. We hypothesise that preventing this glio-vascular activation and circulating cell translocation into the spinal cord could be a new therapeutic strategy for pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.


Beazley-Long, N., Moss, C. E., Ashby, W. R., Bestall, S. M., Almahasneh, F., Durrant, A. M., …Donaldson, L. F. (2018). VEGFR2 promotes central endothelial activation and the spread of pain in inflammatory arthritis. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 74, 49-67.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 11, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 14, 2018
Publication Date 2018-11
Deposit Date Apr 27, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 24, 2019
Journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
Print ISSN 0889-1591
Electronic ISSN 1090-2139
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 74
Pages 49-67
Keywords Inflammatory pain; Rheumatoid arthritis; Chronic pain; Mechanical allodynia; VEGFR2; Glio-vascular activation; ICAM-1; CD11b; Microglia, mono-arthritis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:


You might also like

Downloadable Citations