Mitochondrial dysfunction is observed in various neuropathic pain phenotypes, such as chemotherapy induced neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, HIV-associated neuropathy, and in Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy. To investigate whether mitochondrial dysfunction is present in trauma-induced painful mononeuropathy, a time-course of mitochondrial function and bioenergetics was characterized in the mouse partial sciatic nerve ligation model.
Traumatic nerve injury induces increased metabolic indices of the nerve, resulting in increased oxygen consumption and increased glycolysis. Increased metabolic needs of the nerve are concomitant with bioenergetic and mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction is characterized by reduced ATP synthase activity, reduced electron transport chain activity, and increased futile proton cycling. Bioenergetic dysfunction is characterized by reduced glycolytic reserve, reduced glycolytic capacity, and increased non-glycolytic acidification.
Traumatic peripheral nerve injury induces persistent mitochondrial and bioenergetic dysfunction which implies that pharmacological agents which seek to normalize mitochondrial and bioenergetic dysfunction could be expected to be beneficial for pain treatment. Increases in both glycolytic acidification and non-glycolytic acidification suggest that pH sensitive drugs which preferentially act on acidic tissue will have the ability to preferential act on injured nerves without affecting healthy tissues.