BACKGROUND: Patients undergoing surgery often feel anxious. Accumulating evidence indicated that presurgical anxiety was related to the more severe postsurgical pain. An animal model was established that exposed Sprague-Dawley rats to a single-prolonged stress (SPS) procedure to induce presurgical anxiety-like behaviors. The experiment revealed that presurgical anxiety not only aggravated but also prolonged postsurgical pain. However, the underlying mechanisms were unknown. METHODS: The rats in group C + Cort, group I + Cort, group A + Cort, and group AI + Cort were injected with corticosterone. The rats in group C + RU486, group I + RU486, group A + RU486, and group AI + RU486 were injected with mifepristone (RU486). The rats in group C + GSK650394 and group AI + GSK650394 were injected with GSK650394. The rats in group C + FC1 and group AI + FC1 were injected with fluorocitrate (FC) 30 minutes before SPS, 30 minutes before incision, and on postoperative days 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The rats in group C + FC2 and group AI + FC2 were injected with FC on postoperative days 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. The paw withdrawal mechanical threshold was assessed 24 hours before SPS and from postoperative days 1 to 28. The level of corticosterone was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The expression of serum/glucocorticoid regulated kinase 1 (SGK1), interleukin-1 beta, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha was visualized by Western blot. The concentrations of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) were measured by ATP assay kit. RESULTS: This study showed SPS elevated plasma glucocorticoids and ATP release from astrocytes, which meant the mechanical pain hypersensitivity in presurgical anxiety-induced postsurgical hyperalgesia was dependent on GCs-SGK1-ATP signaling pathway. SGK1 protein level in astrocytes was increased in response to the glucocorticoid stimuli and enhanced the extracellular release of ATP. Furthermore, spinal astrocytes played a key role in the maintenance. Targeting spinal astrocytes in maintenance phase prevented the pathological progression. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggested an important signaling pathway that affected the pain sensitivity after operation caused by presurgical anxiety.