BackgroundChronic osteoarthritic pain is not well understood in terms of its pathophysiological mechanism. Activated glial cells are thought to play a role in the maintenance of chronic pain. T98G glioblastoma cell line was previously observed to release higher amounts of interleukin-6 (IL-6) when treated with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from patients with another chronic pain condition, post-herpetic neuralgia. In this study, we investigated the ability of CSF from patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis suffering from chronic pain, to trigger the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-6, IL-1beta and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) from T98G. Characterization of upstream signalling was also explored.MethodsFifteen osteoarthritis patients undergoing total knee replacement due to chronic knee pain and 15 patients without pain undergoing other surgeries with spinal anaesthesia were prospectively recruited. CSF was collected during anaesthesia. CSF were added to cultured T98G cells in the presence of lipopolysaccharide. IL-6, IL-1β and TNF-α release from T98G cells were measured using enzyme immunoassay. Antibody array and western blotting were performed using CSF-triggered T98G cell lysates to identify possible signalling targets. Age, gender and pain scores were recorded. Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare IL-6 release and protein expression between groups. Association between IL-6 and pain score was analysed using linear regression.ResultsSignificant higher levels of IL-6 were released by T98G cells when induced by osteoarthritis patients’ CSF in the presence of LPS. The IL-6 levels showed positive association with pain score (adjusted B estimate = 10.1 (95% Confidence Interval 4.3–15.9); p = 0.001). Antibody array conducted with 6 pooled T98G cell lysate induced with osteoarthritis pain patient CSF identified greater than 2-fold proteins including STE20-related kinase adaptor protein and spleen tyrosine kinase. Further validation done using western blotting of individual CSF-triggered T98G cell lysate showed non-significant increase.ConclusionHigher IL-6 release from T98G when triggered by OA-CSF, in the presence of LPS, suggest the presence of “unknown molecule” in CSF that may be crucial in the maintenance phase of chronic pain in our osteoarthritis population. Further studies on the signalling pathways involved in pain and relevance of IL-6 release from T98G cells in other pain models are needed.