Cocoa-enriched diets enhance expression of phosphatases and decrease expression of inflammatory molecules in trigeminal ganglion neurons


Activation of trigeminal nerves and release of neuropeptides that promote inflammation are implicated in the underlying pathology of migraine and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. The overall response of trigeminal nerves to peripheral inflammatory stimuli involves a balance between enzymes that promote inflammation, kinases, and those that restore homeostasis, phosphatases. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of a cocoa-enriched diet on the expression of key inflammatory proteins in trigeminal ganglion neurons under basal and inflammatory conditions. Rats were fed a control diet or an isocaloric diet enriched in cocoa for 14 days prior to an injection of noxious stimuli to cause acute or chronic excitation of trigeminal neurons. In animals fed a cocoa-enriched diet, basal levels of the mitogen-activated kinase (MAP) phosphatases MKP-1 and MKP-3 were elevated in neurons. Importantly, the stimulatory effects of acute or chronic peripheral inflammation on neuronal expression of the MAPK p38 and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) were significantly repressed in response to cocoa. Similarly, dietary cocoa significantly suppressed basal neuronal expression of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) as well as stimulated levels of the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), proteins implicated in the underlying pathology of migraine and TMJ disorders. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that a dietary supplement can cause upregulation of MKP, and that cocoa can prevent inflammatory responses in trigeminal ganglion neurons. Furthermore, our data provide evidence that cocoa contains biologically active compounds that would be beneficial in the treatment of migraine and TMJ disorders.



Document Type




cocoa, trigeminal, inflammation, headache, temporomandibular joint, disorder, MAPK, MKP

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Journal Title

Brain research