Facet joint injury induces persistent pain that may be maintained by structural plasticity in the spinal cord. reducing TSP4 activity at its neuronal receptor in the spinal cord with gabapentin treatment both attenuate the allodynia and dorsal horn synaptogenesis that develop after painful facet joint loading. Increased spinal TSP4 also facilitates the development of allodynia and spinal hyperexcitability even after non-painful physiologic loading of the facet joint. These results suggest that spinal TSP4 plays an important role in the development and maintenance of persistent joint-mediated pain by inducing excitatory synaptogenesis and facilitating the transduction of mechanical loading of the facet joint that leads to spinal hyperexcitability. TSP4 may contribute to the increase in spinal TSP4 in this study (Figure 3) (Arber and Caroni 1995 this is not likely since injury-induced TSP4 expression is not localized to neurons after painful nerve injury (Kim et al. 2012 The decrease in TSP4 in the DRG shows that TSP4 is differentially regulated in the periphery and the spinal cord after painful facet joint loading and may indicate a peripheral CGP77675 feedback CGP77675 mechanism contributing to pain. However this study focused primarily on the spinal role of TSP4 so further investigation is required to evaluate the effects of TSP4 dysregulation in the DRG as has been recently examined after painful nerve injury (Pan et al. 2014 Overall the similarities in the spatiotemporal regulation of TSP4 in the DRG and spinal cord after painful joint loading and neural trauma strongly suggest that there are common mechanism(s) by which TSP4 contributes to spinal sensitization and chronic pain regardless of the inciting event. Given the synaptogenic properties of thrombospondins (Christopherson et al. 2005 upregulation of TSP4 in the Serpine2 superficial dorsal horn could directly increase the number of excitatory synapses that is observed in that region (Figures 2 & 3). TSP4 is also increased in the dorsal columns where it may potentiate firing in the low-threshold Aβ fibers that project to the brain through the columns (Kim et al. 2012 and contribute to the decreased mechanical pain threshold in the forepaw after painful joint loading. Blocking TSP4 expression or activity abolishes injury-induced allodynia and the increase in excitatory synapses (Figures 4 & 5) suggesting that increased spinal TSP4 is requisite for synaptogenesis and spinal sensitization through interaction with its neuronal receptor α2δ-1. Of note the relative increase in CGP77675 excitatory synapses (1.56-fold) in the superficial dorsal horn after painful facet joint injury (Figure 2B) is similar to the range of increases CGP77675 in synapses reported in that spinal region after peripheral nerve injury (Jaken et al. 2010 Li et al. 2014 Lin et al. 2011 CGP77675 Peng et al. 2010 However excitatory synaptogenesis could amplify nociception in the dorsal horn by multiple pathways such as increasing excitatory synapses between primary afferents and nociceptive-specific neurons in the superficial laminae or increasing connections between excitatory interneurons and wide dynamic range neurons that contribute to pain signaling (Basbaum et al. 2009 Additional studies of spinal structural plasticity after joint injury are needed to determine which pre- and post-synaptic neuronal populations if any form aberrant connections during excitatory synaptogenesis. Gabapentin blocks the development of behavioral sensitivity and the initiation of excitatory synaptogenesis (Figure 5) possibly by inhibiting the activity of TSP4 (Eroglu et al. 2009 Gabapentin has been shown also to reduce spinal astrocytic activation and dorsal horn neuronal CGP77675 hyperexcitability in this same painful joint distraction model (Dong et al. 2013 suggesting that gabapentin may prevent TSP4 activity that is critical for the development of facet-mediated pain. Because gabapentin is short-acting and likely not active for the study duration (Field et al. 1997 it is also possible that gabapentin’s effects at the time of injury prevent the initial increase in spinal TSP4 rather than continuously blocking TSP4 activity after it is upregulated. Increased spinal TSP4 is sufficient to induce forepaw tactile allodynia but it also potentiates the development of dorsal horn neuronal hyperexcitability after.