Salmon-derived thrombin inhibits development of chronic pain through an endothelial barrier protective mechanism dependent on APC


Many neurological disorders are initiated by blood–brain barrier breakdown, which potentiates spinal neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. Peripheral neuropathic injuries are known to disrupt the blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) and to potentiate inflammation. But, it is not known whether BSCB breakdown facilitates pain development. In this study, a neural compression model in the rat was used to evaluate relationships among BSCB permeability, inflammation and pain-related behaviors. BSCB permeability increases transiently only after injury that induces mechanical hyperalgesia, which correlates with serum concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-7, IL-12, IL-1α and TNF-α. Mammalian thrombin dually regulates vascular permeability through PAR1 and activated protein C (APC). Since thrombin protects vascular integrity through APC, directing its affinity towards protein C, while still promoting coagulation, might be an ideal treatment for BSCB-disrupting disorders. Salmon thrombin, which prevents the development of mechanical allodynia, also prevents BSCB breakdown after neural injury and actively inhibits TNF-α-induced endothelial permeability in vitro, which is not evident the case for human thrombin. Salmon thrombin’s production of APC faster than human thrombin is confirmed using a fluorogenic assay and APC is shown to inhibit BSCB breakdown and pain-related behaviors similar to salmon thrombin. Together, these studies highlight the impact of BSCB on pain and establish salmon thrombin as an effective blocker of BSCB, and resulting nociception, through its preferential affinity for protein C.