Initial characterization of the transplant of immortalized chromaffin cells for the attenuation of chronic neuropathic pain

M. J. Eaton, M. Martinez, S. Karmally, T. Lopez, J. Sagen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Cultures of embryonic day 17 (E17) rat adrenal and neonatal bovine adrenal cells were conditionally immortalized with the temperature-sensitive allele of SV40 large T antigen (tsTag) and chromaffin cell lines established. Indicative of the adrenal chromaffin phenotype, these cells expressed immunoreactivity (ir) for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the first enzyme in the synthetic pathway for catecholamines. At permissive temperature in vitro (33°C), these chromaffin cells are proliferative, have a typical rounded chromaffin-like morphology, and contain detectable TH-ir. At nonpermissive temperature in vitro (39°C), these cells stop proliferating and express increased TH-ir. When these immortalized chromaffin cells were transplanted in the lumbar subarachnoid space of the spinal cord I week after a unilateral chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the rat sciatic nerve, they survived longer than 7 weeks on the pia mater around the spinal cord and continued to express TH-ir. Conversely, grafted chromaffin cells lost Tag-ir after transplant and Tag-ir was undetectible in the grafts after 7 weeks in the subarachnoid space. At no time did the grafts form tumors after transplant into the host animals. These grafted chromaffin cells also expressed immunoreactivities for the other catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes 7 weeks after grafting, including: dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DβH) and phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PNMT). The grafted cells also expressed detectable immunoreactivities for the opioid met-enkephalin (ENK), the peptide galanin (GAL), and the neurotransmitters γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin (5-HT). Furthermore, after transplantation, tactile and cold allodynia and tactile and thermal hyperalgesia induced by CCI were significantly reduced during a 2-8-week period, related to the chromaffin cell transplants. The maximal antinociceptive effect occurred 1-3 weeks after grafting. Control adrenal fibroblasts, similarly immortalized and similarly transplanted after CCI, did not express any of the chromaffin antigenic markers, and fibroblast grafts had no effect on the allodynia and hyperalgesia induced by CCI. These data suggest that embryonic and neonatal chromaffin cells can be conditionally immortalized and will continue to express the phenotype of primary chromaffin cells in vitro and in vivo; grafted cells will ameliorate neuropathic pain after nerve injury and can be used as a homogeneous source to examine the mechanisms by which chromaffin transplants reverse chronic pain. The use of such chromaffin cell lines that are able to deliver antinociceptive molecules in models of chronic pain after nerve and spinal cord injury (SCI) offers a novel approach to pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-656
Number of pages20
JournalCell transplantation
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000


  • Cell lines
  • Chromaffin cells
  • Chronic constriction injury
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation


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