Bone morphogenetic protein-2-mediated pain and inflammation in a rat model of posterolateral arthrodesis

Kendall Mitchell, Jill P. Shah, Clifton L. Dalgard, Lyubov V. Tsytsikova, Ashley C. Tipton, Anton E. Dmitriev, Aviva J. Symes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) is a pleiotropic, secreted molecule with diverse effects. The potent ability of BMP-2 to stimulate bone growth prompted its widespread clinical use for arthrodesis (spine fusion). However, elevated post-operative pain in patients treated with BMP-2 has been increasingly reported. Determining whether BMP-2 induces pain directly or whether it induces neuroinflammation, which could lower the threshold for pain, is important for developing therapeutic interventions. We therefore modeled the clinical use of BMP-2 for posterior lumbar fusion by implanting absorbable collagen sponges soaked with either recombinant human BMP-2 (rhBMP-2) or vehicle above the L4-L5 transverse processes of rat spine. Results: Using microarray analysis we found that implantation of rhBMP-2-soaked absorbable collagen sponges resulted in altered expression of numerous pro-inflammatory genes in the adjacent dorsal root ganglia (DRG) showing that implantation of rhBMP-2/absorbable collagen sponges triggers potent neuroinflammatory responses in the DRG-2. Interestingly, direct BMP-2 treatment of DRG explants resulted in changes in gene expression that were not specifically pro-inflammatory. Rats implanted with rhBMP-2 in absorbable collagen sponges also exhibited a transient change in thermal and mechanical sensitivity indicating that rhBMP-2 applied to the lumbar spine could increase pain sensitivity. Immunohistochemical analysis indicated macrophage infiltration in the DRG and spinal nerve in rats implanted with rhBMP-2/absorbable collagen sponges or absorbable collagen sponges alone, but not in rats that underwent surgery without implantation of the absorbable collagen sponges suggesting that the sponges contributed to the biological response. Indeed, analysis of DRGs taken from rats implanted with absorbable collagen sponges without rhBMP-2 showed a significant change in gene expression distinct from DRGs from rats undergoing surgery only. Conclusions: Our data indicate that implantation of rhBMP-2/absorbable collagen sponges on the lumbar spine triggers potent neuroinflammatory responses in the DRG. Importantly, however, these BMP-2 effects may be partially mediated through a response to the absorbable collagen sponges.

Original languageEnglish
Article number80
JournalBMC Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone morphogenetic protein-2
  • Cytokines
  • Dorsal root ganglia
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages


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