Cold exposure induces complement activation and vaso-occlusive pain crisis in sickle mice.
Inhibition of C5a generation with anti-C5 or signaling with anti-C5aR antibody inhibits cold-induced VOE and hyperalgesia in sickle mice.
Vaso-occlusive pain episodes (VOE) cause severe pain in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). Vaso-occlusive events promote ischemia/reperfusion pathobiology that activates complement. We hypothesized that complement activation is linked to VOE. We used cold to induce VOE in the Townes sickle homozygous for hemoglobin S (HbSS) mouse model and complement inhibitors to determine whether anaphylatoxin C5a mediates VOE. We used a dorsal skinfold chamber to measure microvascular stasis (vaso-occlusion) and von Frey filaments applied to the plantar surface of the hind paw to assess mechanical hyperalgesia in HbSS and control Townes mice homozygous for hemoglobin A (HbAA) mice after cold exposure at 10°C/50°F for 1 hour. Cold exposure induced more vaso-occlusion in nonhyperalgesic HbSS mice (33%) than in HbAA mice (11%) or HbSS mice left at room temperature (1%). Cold exposure also produced mechanical hyperalgesia as measured by paw withdrawal threshold in HbSS mice compared with that in HbAA mice or HbSS mice left at room temperature. Vaso-occlusion and hyperalgesia were associated with an increase in complement activation fragments Bb and C5a in plasma of HbSS mice after cold exposure. This was accompanied by an increase in proinflammatory NF-κB activation and VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 expression in the liver. Pretreatment of nonhyperalgesic HbSS mice before cold exposure with anti-C5 or anti-C5aR monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) decreased vaso-occlusion, mechanical hyperalgesia, complement activation, and liver inflammatory markers compared with pretreatment with control mAb. Anti-C5 or -C5aR mAb infusion also abrogated mechanical hyperalgesia in HbSS mice with ongoing hyperalgesia at baseline. These findings suggest that C5a promotes vaso-occlusion, pain, and inflammation during VOE and may play a role in chronic pain.