2018 Volume 60 Issue 4 Pages 493-499
Pulpitis often causes referred pain in opposing teeth. However, the precise mechanism underlying ectopic pain associated with tooth-pulp inflammation remains unclear. We performed the present study to test the hypothesis that functional interactions between satellite glial cells (SGCs) and trigeminal ganglion (TG) neurons are involved in ectopic orofacial pain associated with tooth-pulp inflammation. Digastric muscle electromyograph (D-EMG) activity elicited by administration of capsaicin into the upper second molar pulp (U2) was analyzed to evaluate noxious reflex responses. D-EMG activity was significantly increased in rats with lower first molar (L1) inflammation relative to saline-treated rats. Significantly increased expression of glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP), a marker of activated glial cells, and connexin 43 (Cx43), a gap-junction protein, was observed in activated SGCs surrounding U2-innervating TG-neurons after L1-pulp inflammation. Daily administration of Gap26, a Cx43-inhibiting mimetic peptide, into the TG significantly suppressed capsaicin-induced D-EMG activity enhancement and reduced the percentage of fluorogold-labeled (U2-innervated) cells that were surrounded by GFAP-immunoreactive (IR) and Cx43-IR cells after L1-pulp inflammation. These findings indicate that tooth-pulp inflammation induces SGC activation and subsequent spread of SGC activation in the TG via Cx43-containing gap junctions. Thus, remote neuron excitability becomes enhanced in the TG following tooth-pulp inflammation, resulting in ectopic tooth-pulp pain in the contralateral tooth.