The genesis of the headache phase in migraine with aura is thought to be mediated by cortical spreading depression (CSD) and the subsequent activation and sensitization of primary afferent neurons that innervate the intracranial meninges and their related large vessels. Yet, the exact mechanisms underlying this peripheral meningeal nociceptive response remain poorly understood. We investigated the relative contribution of cortical astrocytes to CSD-evoked meningeal nociception using an extracellular single-unit recording of meningeal afferent activity and 2-photon imaging of cortical astrocyte calcium activity, in combination with 2 pharmacological approaches to inhibit astrocytic function. We found that fluoroacetate and L-a-aminoadipate, which inhibit astrocytes through distinct mechanisms, suppressed CSD-evoked afferent mechanical sensitization, but did not affect afferent activation. Pharmacological inhibition of astrocytic function, which ameliorated meningeal afferents’ sensitization, reduced basal astrocyte calcium activity but had a minimal effect on the astrocytic calcium wave during CSD. We propose that calcium-independent signalling in cortical astrocytes plays an important role in driving the sensitization of meningeal afferents and the ensuing intracranial mechanical hypersensitivity in migraine with aura.
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