BACKGROUND: Microglia have been implicated in the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain. Here, we sought to investigate whether cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) might be used as a proxy-measure of microglial activation in human participants.

METHODS: We preformed fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) of CSF immune cell populations derived from individuals who experienced pain with neuropathic features. We sorted CD4+, CD8+ T cells and monocytes and analyzed their transcriptome using RNA sequencing. We also performed Cellular Indexing of Transcriptomes and Epitopes (CITE) sequencing to characterize the expression of all CSF immune cells in a patient with postherpetic neuralgia and in a patient with neuropathic pain after failed back surgery.

RESULTS: Immune cell numbers and phenotypes were not obviously different between individuals regardless of the etiology of their pain. This was true when examining our own dataset, as well as when comparing it to previously published single-cell RNA sequencing data of human CSF. In all instances, CSF monocytes showed expression of myeloid cell markers commonly associated with microglia ( P2RY12, TMEM119 and OLFML3), which will make it difficult to ascertain the origin of CSF proteins: do they derive directly from circulating CSF monocytes or could some originate in spinal cord microglia in the parenchyma?

CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that it will not be straightforward to use CSF as a biomarker for microglial function in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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