The original formulation of Gate Control Theory (GCT) proposed that the perception of pain produced by spinal cord signaling to the brain depends on a balance of activity generated in large (nonnociceptive)- and small (nociceptive)-diameter primary afferent fibers. The theory proposed that activation of the large-diameter afferent "closes" the gate by engaging a superficial dorsal horn interneuron that inhibits the firing of projection neurons. Activation of the nociceptors "opens" the gate through concomitant excitation of projection neurons and inhibition of the inhibitory interneurons. Sixty years after publication of the GCT, we are faced with an ever-growing list of morphologically and neurochemically distinct spinal cord interneurons. The present Review highlights the complexity of superficial dorsal horn circuitry and addresses the question whether the premises outlined in GCT still have relevance today. By examining the dorsal horn circuits that underlie the transmission of "pain" and "itch" messages, we also address the extent to which labeled lines can be incorporated into a contemporary view of GCT.
Many neurologic and psychiatric disorders are marked by imbalances between neural excitation and inhibition. In the cerebral cortex, inhibition is mediated largely by GABAergic (?-aminobutyric acid-secreting) interneurons, a cell type that originates in the embryonic ventral telencephalon and populates the cortex through long-distance tangential migration. Remarkably, when transplanted from embryos or in vitro culture preparations, immature interneurons disperse and integrate into host brain circuits, both in the cerebral cortex and in other regions of the central nervous system. These features make interneuron transplantation a powerful tool for the study of neurodevelopmental processes such as cell specification, cell death, and cortical plasticity. Moreover, interneuron transplantation provides a novel strategy for modifying neural circuits in rodent models of epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, mood disorders, and chronic pain.
Cutaneous mechanosensory neurons detect mechanical stimuli that generate touch and pain sensation. Although opioids are generally associated only with the control of pain, here we report that the opioid system in fact broadly regulates cutaneous mechanosensation, including touch. This function is predominantly subserved by the delta opioid receptor (DOR), which is expressed by myelinated mechanoreceptors that form Meissner corpuscles, Merkel cell-neurite complexes, and circumferential hair follicle endings. These afferents also include a small population of CGRP-expressing myelinated nociceptors that we now identify as the somatosensory neurons that coexpress mu and delta opioid receptors. We further demonstrate that DOR activation at the central terminals of myelinated mechanoreceptors depresses synaptic input to the spinal dorsal horn, via the inhibition of voltage-gated calcium channels. Collectively our results uncover a molecular mechanism by which opioids modulate cutaneous mechanosensation and provide a rationale for targeting DOR to alleviate injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity.
The transmission of pruritoceptive (itch) messages involves specific neural circuits within the spinal cord that are distinct from those that transmit pain messages. These itch-specific circuits are tonically regulated by inhibitory interneurons in the dorsal horn. Consistent with these findings, it has previously been reported that loss of GABAergic interneurons in mice harboring a deletion of the transcription factor Bhlhb5 generates a severe, nonremitting condition of chronic itch. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the neuropathic itch in BHLHB5-deficient animals can be treated by restoring inhibitory controls through spinal cord transplantation and integration of precursors of cortical inhibitory interneurons derived from the embryonic medial ganglionic eminence. We specifically targeted the transplants to segments of the spinal cord innervated by areas of the body that were most severely affected. BHLHB5-deficient mice that received transplants demonstrated a substantial reduction of excessive scratching and dramatic resolution of skin lesions. In contrast, the scratching persisted and skin lesions worsened over time in sham-treated mice. Together, these results indicate that cell-mediated restoration of inhibitory controls has potential as a powerful, cell-based therapy for neuropathic itch that not only ameliorates symptoms of chronic itch, but also may modify disease.
TMEM16C belongs to the TMEM16 family, which includes the Ca(2+)-activated Cl(-) channels TMEM16A and TMEM16B and a small-conductance, Ca(2+)-activated, nonselective cation channel (SCAN), TMEM16F. We found that in rat dorsal root ganglia (DRG) TMEM16C was expressed mainly in the IB4-positive, non-peptidergic nociceptors that also express the sodium-activated potassium (K(Na)) channel Slack. Together these channel proteins promote K(Na) channel activity and dampen neuronal excitability. DRG from TMEM16C knockout rats had diminished Slack expression, broadened action potentials and increased excitability. Moreover, the TMEM16C knockout rats, as well as rats with Slack knockdown by intrathecal injection of short interfering RNA, exhibited increased thermal and mechanical sensitivity. Experiments involving heterologous expression in HEK293 cells further showed that TMEM16C modulated the single-channel activity of Slack channels and increased its sodium sensitivity. Our study thus reveals that TMEM16C enhances K(Na) channel activity in DRG neurons and regulates the processing of pain messages.
Dental pain, including toothache, is one of the most prevalent types of orofacial pain, causing severe, persistent pain that has a significant negative effect on quality of life, including eating disturbances, mood changes, and sleep disruption. As the primary cause of toothache pain is injury to the uniquely innervated dental pulp, rodent models of this injury provide the opportunity to study neurobiological mechanisms of tissue injury-induced persistent pain. Here we evaluated behavioral changes in mice with a dental pulp injury (DPI) produced by mechanically exposing the pulp to the oral environment. We monitored the daily life behaviors of mice with DPI, including measures of eating, drinking, and movement. During the first 48 hours, the only parameter affected by DPI was locomotion, which was reduced. There was also a significant short-term decrease in the amount of weight gained by DPI animals that was not related to food consumption. As cold allodynia is frequently observed in individuals experiencing toothache pain, we tested whether mice with DPI demonstrate an aversion to drinking cold liquids using a cold-sucrose consumption test. Surprisingly, mice with DPI increased their consumption of sucrose solution, to over 150% of baseline, regardless of temperature. Both the weight loss and increased sucrose intake in the first 2 days of injury were reversed by administration of indomethacin. These findings indicate that enhanced sucrose consumption may be a reliable measure of orofacial pain in rodents, and suggest that alterations in energy expenditure and motivational behaviors are under-recognized outcomes of tooth injury.
To what extent dorsal horn interneurons contribute to the modality specific processing of pain and itch messages is not known. Here, we report that loxp/cre-mediated CNS deletion of TR4, a testicular orphan nuclear receptor, results in loss of many excitatory interneurons in the superficial dorsal horn but preservation of primary afferents and spinal projection neurons. The interneuron loss is associated with a near complete absence of supraspinally integrated pain and itch behaviors, elevated mechanical withdrawal thresholds and loss of nerve injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity, but reflex responsiveness to noxious heat, nerve injury-induced heat hypersensitivity, and tissue injury-induced heat and mechanical hypersensitivity are intact. We conclude that different subsets of dorsal horn excitatory interneurons contribute to tissue and nerve injury-induced heat and mechanical pain and that the full expression of supraspinally mediated pain and itch behaviors cannot be generated solely by nociceptor and pruritoceptor activation of projection neurons; concurrent activation of excitatory interneurons is essential.
Natural products that elicit discomfort or pain represent invaluable tools for probing molecular mechanisms underlying pain sensation. Plant-derived irritants have predominated in this regard, but animal venoms have also evolved to avert predators by targeting neurons and receptors whose activation produces noxious sensations. As such, venoms provide a rich and varied source of small molecule and protein pharmacophores that can be exploited to characterize and manipulate key components of the pain-signalling pathway. With this in mind, here we perform an unbiased in vitro screen to identify snake venoms capable of activating somatosensory neurons. Venom from the Texas coral snake (Micrurus tener tener), whose bite produces intense and unremitting pain, excites a large cohort of sensory neurons. The purified active species (MitTx) consists of a heteromeric complex between Kunitz- and phospholipase-A2-like proteins that together function as a potent, persistent and selective agonist for acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), showing equal or greater efficacy compared with acidic pH. MitTx is highly selective for the ASIC1 subtype at neutral pH; under more acidic conditions (pH < 6.5), MitTx massively potentiates (>100-fold) proton-evoked activation of ASIC2a channels. These observations raise the possibility that ASIC channels function as coincidence detectors for extracellular protons and other, as yet unidentified, endogenous factors. Purified MitTx elicits robust pain-related behaviour in mice by activation of ASIC1 channels on capsaicin-sensitive nerve fibres. These findings reveal a mechanism whereby snake venoms produce pain, and highlight an unexpected contribution of ASIC1 channels to nociception.
Primary afferent "pain" fibers (nociceptors) are divided into subclasses based on distinct molecular and anatomical features, and these classes mediate noxious modality-specific contributions to behaviors evoked by painful stimuli. Whether the heat and capsaicin receptor transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1) is expressed heterogeneously across several sensory populations, or is selectively expressed by a unique nociceptor subclass, however, is unclear. Here we used two lines of Trpv1 reporter mice to investigate the primary afferent expression of TRPV1, both during development and in the adult. We demonstrate, using Cre-induced lineage tracing, that during development TRPV1 is transiently expressed in a wide range of dorsal root ganglion neurons, and that its expression is gradually refined, such that TRPV1 transcripts become restricted to a specific subset of peptidergic sensory neurons. Finally, the remarkable sensitivity that is characteristic of these reporter mice revealed an innervation of central and peripheral targets by TRPV1+ primary afferents in the adult that is considerably more extensive than has previously been appreciated.
We recently developed a genetic transneuronal tracing approach that allows for the study of circuits that are altered by nerve injury. We generated transgenic (ZW-X) mice in which expression of a transneuronal tracer, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), is induced in primary sensory neurons, but only after transection of their peripheral axon. By following the transneuronal transport of the tracer into the central nervous system (CNS) we can label the circuits that are engaged by the WGA-expressing damaged neurons. Here we used the ZW-X mouse line to analyze dorsal root ganglia (DRG) for intraganglionic connections between injured sensory neurons and their neighboring "intact" neurons. Because neuropeptide Y (NPY) expression is strongly induced in DRG neurons after peripheral axotomy, we crossed the ZW-X mouse line with a mouse that expresses Cre recombinase under the influence of the NPY promoter. As expected, sciatic nerve transection triggered WGA expression in NPY-positive DRG neurons, most of which are of large diameter. As expected, double labeling for ATF-3, a marker of cell bodies with damaged axons, showed that the tracer predominated in injured (i.e., axotomized) neurons. However, we also found the WGA tracer in DRG cell bodies of uninjured sensory neurons. Importantly, in the absence of nerve injury there was no intraganglionic transfer of WGA. Our results demonstrate that intraganglionic, cell-to-cell communication, via transfer of large molecules, occurs between the cell bodies of injured and neighboring noninjured primary afferent neurons.
The heat and capsaicin receptor, TRPV1, is required for the detection of painful heat by primary afferent pain fibers (nociceptors), but the extent to which functional TRPV1 channels are expressed in the CNS is debated. Because previous evidence is based primarily on indirect physiological responses to capsaicin, here we genetically modified the Trpv1 locus to reveal, with excellent sensitivity and specificity, the distribution of TRPV1 in all neuronal and non-neuronal tissues. In contrast to reports of widespread and robust expression in the CNS, we find that neuronal TRPV1 is primarily restricted to nociceptors in primary sensory ganglia, with minimal expression in a few discrete brain regions, most notably in a contiguous band of cells within and adjacent to the caudal hypothalamus. We confirm hypothalamic expression in the mouse using several complementary approaches, including in situ hybridization, calcium imaging, and electrophysiological recordings. Additional in situ hybridization experiments in rat, monkey, and human brain demonstrate that the restricted expression of TRPV1 in the CNS is conserved across species. Outside of the CNS, we find TRPV1 expression in a subset of arteriolar smooth muscle cells within thermoregulatory tissues. Here, capsaicin increases calcium uptake and induces vasoconstriction, an effect that likely counteracts the vasodilation produced by activation of neuronal TRPV1.
Despite the impact of chronic pain on the quality of life in patients, including changes to affective state and daily life activities, rodent preclinical models rarely address this aspect of chronic pain. To better understand the behavioral consequences of the tissue and nerve injuries typically used to model neuropathic and inflammatory pain in mice, we measured home cage and affective state behaviors in animals with spared nerve injury, chronic constriction injury (CCI), or intraplantar complete Freunds adjuvant. Mechanical hypersensitivity is prominent in each of these conditions and persists for many weeks. Home cage behavior was continuously monitored for 16 days in a system that measures locomotion, feeding, and drinking, and allows for precise analysis of circadian patterns. When monitored after injury, animals with spared nerve injury and complete Freunds adjuvant behaved no differently from controls in any aspect of daily life. Animals with CCI were initially less active, but the difference between CCI and controls disappeared by 2 weeks after injury. Further, in all pain models, there was no change in any measure of affective state. We conclude that in these standard models of persistent pain, despite the development of prolonged hypersensitivity, the mice do not have significantly altered "quality of life." As alteration in daily life activities is the feature that is so disrupted in patients with chronic pain, our results suggest that the models used here do not fully reflect the human conditions and point to a need for development of a murine chronic pain model in which lifestyle changes are manifest.
Chronic pain is estimated to be the third most prevalent health problem in the world. Although scientists have made great strides in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms through which chronic pain develops, this knowledge has not been translated into new therapies. In this issue of Science Translational Medicine, Wang and colleagues report on the development of a selective antagonist of type 1 adenylate cyclase (AC1), which is induced in subsets of neurons in the central nervous system during the development of neuropathic pain. Blockade of AC1 significantly alleviates the mechanical hypersensitivity that occurs in a mouse model of neuropathic pain without affecting acute pain responsiveness or cognitive and motor function. These features make AC1 a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons, including the nociceptors that detect painful thermal, mechanical, and chemical stimuli, transmit information to spinal cord neurons via glutamatergic and peptidergic neurotransmitters. However, the specific contribution of glutamate to pain generated by distinct sensory modalities or injuries is not known. Here we generated mice in which the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2) is ablated selectively from DRG neurons. We report that conditional knockout (cKO) of the Slc17a6 gene encoding VGLUT2 from the great majority of nociceptors profoundly decreased VGLUT2 mRNA and protein in these neurons, and reduced firing of lamina I spinal cord neurons in response to noxious heat and mechanical stimulation. In behavioral assays, cKO mice showed decreased responsiveness to acute noxious heat, mechanical, and chemical (capsaicin) stimuli, but responded normally to cold stimulation and in the formalin test. Strikingly, although tissue injury-induced heat hyperalgesia was lost in the cKO mice, mechanical hypersensitivity developed normally. In a model of nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain, the magnitude of heat hypersensitivity was diminished in cKO mice, but both the mechanical allodynia and the microgliosis generated by nerve injury were intact. These findings suggest that VGLUT2 expression in nociceptors is essential for normal perception of acute pain and heat hyperalgesia, and that heat and mechanical hypersensitivity induced by peripheral injury rely on distinct (VGLUT2 dependent and VGLUT2 independent, respectively) primary afferent mechanisms and pathways.
Olfactory ensheathing glia (OEG) are distinct from other glia in their developmental origin, presence in both the peripheral and central nervous systems, and highly restricted location. OEG are present only in the olfactory lamina propria, olfactory nerve, and the outer two layers of the olfactory bulb, where they envelop bundles of olfactory sensory neuron axons in a manner distinct from myelination. Because of their unique properties and their association with the continually generated olfactory sensory neurons, OEG have attracted interest for their potential capacity to support axonal regeneration, for example, after spinal cord injury. However, study of the properties and function of OEG has been hampered by a paucity of neurochemical markers with which to identify and distinguish them definitively from other types of glia. Here we provide evidence through anatomical colocalization studies that OEG express the water channel aquaporin 1 (AQP1), both in vivo and in vitro. We propose that AQP1 expression represents an important distinguishing characteristic of OEG, which may impart unique function to these glia.
Although the formalin test is a widely used model of persistent pain, the primary afferent fiber types that underlie the cellular and behavioral responses to formalin injection are largely unknown. Here we used a combined genetic and pharmacological approach to investigate the effect of ablating subsets of primary afferent nociceptors on formalin-induced nocifensive behaviors and spinal cord Fos protein expression. Intrathecal capsaicin-induced ablation of the central terminals of TRPV1+neurons greatly reduced the behavioral responses and Fos elicited by low-dose (0.5%) formalin. In contrast, genetic ablation of the MrgprD-expressing subset of non-peptidergic unmyelinated afferents, which constitute a largely non-overlapping population, altered neither the behavior nor the Fos induced by low-dose formalin. Remarkably, nocifensive behavior following high-dose (2%) formalin was unchanged in mice lacking either afferent population, or even in mice lacking both populations, which together make up the great majority of C-fiber nociceptors. Thus, at high doses, which are routinely used in the formalin test, formalin-induced "pain" behavior persists in the absence of the vast majority of C-fiber nociceptors, which points to a contribution of a large spectrum of afferents secondary to non-specific formalin-induced tissue and nerve damage.
Although transgenic and knockout mice have helped delineate the mechanisms of action of diverse noxious compounds, it is still difficult to determine unequivocally the subpopulations of primary afferent nociceptor that these molecules engage. As most noxious stimuli lead to tissue and/or nerve injury, here we used induction of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3), a reliable marker of nerve injury, to assess the populations of primary afferent fibers that are activated after peripheral administration of noxious chemical stimuli. In wild-type mice, hindpaw injections of capsaicin, formalin, mustard oil or menthol induce expression of ATF3 in distinct subpopulations of sensory neurons. Interestingly, even though these noxious chemicals are thought to act through subtypes of transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, all compounds also induced ATF3 in neurons that appear not to express the expected TRP channel subtypes. On the other hand, capsaicin failed to induce ATF3 in mice lacking TRPV1, indicating that TRPV1 is required for both the direct and indirect induction of ATF3 in sensory neurons. By contrast, only low doses of formalin or mustard oil failed to induce ATF3 in TRPA1 null mice, indicating that injections of high doses (>0.5%) of formalin or mustard oil recruit both TRPA1- and non-TRPA1 expressing primary afferent fibers. Finally, peripheral injection of menthol, a TRPM8 receptor agonist, induced ATF3 in a wide variety of sensory neurons, but in a TRPM8-independent manner. We conclude that purportedly selective agonists can activate a heterogeneous population of sensory neurons, which ultimately could contribute to the behavioral responses evoked.
The nervous system detects and interprets a wide range of thermal and mechanical stimuli, as well as environmental and endogenous chemical irritants. When intense, these stimuli generate acute pain, and in the setting of persistent injury, both peripheral and central nervous system components of the pain transmission pathway exhibit tremendous plasticity, enhancing pain signals and producing hypersensitivity. When plasticity facilitates protective reflexes, it can be beneficial, but when the changes persist, a chronic pain condition may result. Genetic, electrophysiological, and pharmacological studies are elucidating the molecular mechanisms that underlie detection, coding, and modulation of noxious stimuli that generate pain.
The mechanisms that generate itch are poorly understood at both the molecular and cellular levels despite its clinical importance. To explore the peripheral neuronal mechanisms underlying itch, we assessed the behavioral responses (scratching) produced by s.c. injection of various pruritogens in PLCbeta3- or TRPV1-deficient mice. We provide evidence that at least 3 different molecular pathways contribute to the transduction of itch responses to different pruritogens: 1) histamine requires the function of both PLCbeta3 and the TRPV1 channel; 2) serotonin, or a selective agonist, alpha-methyl-serotonin (alpha-Me-5-HT), requires the presence of PLCbeta3 but not TRPV1, and 3) endothelin-1 (ET-1) does not require either PLCbeta3 or TRPV1. To determine whether the activity of these molecules is represented in a particular subpopulation of sensory neurons, we examined the behavioral consequences of selectively eliminating 2 nonoverlapping subsets of nociceptors. The genetic ablation of MrgprD(+) neurons that represent approximately 90% of cutaneous nonpeptidergic neurons did not affect the scratching responses to a number of pruritogens. In contrast, chemical ablation of the central branch of TRPV1(+) nociceptors led to a significant behavioral deficit for pruritogens, including alpha-Me-5-HT and ET-1, that is, the TRPV1-expressing nociceptor was required, whether or not TRPV1 itself was essential. Thus, TRPV1 neurons are equipped with multiple signaling mechanisms that respond to different pruritogens. Some of these require TRPV1 function; others use alternate signal transduction pathways.
Behavioral responses to painful stimuli require peripheral sensory neurons called nociceptors. Electrophysiological studies show that most C-fiber nociceptors are polymodal (i.e., respond to multiple noxious stimulus modalities, such as mechanical and thermal); nevertheless, these stimuli are perceived as distinct. Therefore, it is believed that discrimination among these modalities only occurs at spinal or supraspinal levels of processing. Here, we provide evidence to the contrary. Genetic ablation in adulthood of unmyelinated sensory neurons expressing the G protein-coupled receptor Mrgprd reduces behavioral sensitivity to noxious mechanical stimuli but not to heat or cold stimuli. Conversely, pharmacological ablation of the central branches of TRPV1(+) nociceptors, which constitute a nonoverlapping population, selectively abolishes noxious heat pain sensitivity. Combined elimination of both populations yielded an additive phenotype with no additional behavioral deficits, ruling out a redundant contribution of these populations to heat and mechanical pain sensitivity. This double-dissociation suggests that the brain can distinguish different noxious stimulus modalities from the earliest stages of sensory processing.
Mechanical pain contributes to the morbidity associated with inflammation and trauma, but primary sensory neurons that convey the sensation of acute and persistent mechanical pain have not been identified. Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons transmit sensory information to the spinal cord using the excitatory transmitter glutamate, a process that depends on glutamate transport into synaptic vesicles for regulated exocytotic release. Here we report that a small subset of cells in the DRG expresses the low abundance vesicular glutamate transporter VGLUT3 (also known as SLC17A8). In the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, these afferents project to lamina I and the innermost layer of lamina II, which has previously been implicated in persistent pain caused by injury. Because the different VGLUT isoforms generally have a non-redundant pattern of expression, we used Vglut3 knockout mice to assess the role of VGLUT3(+) primary afferents in the behavioural response to somatosensory input. The loss of VGLUT3 specifically impairs mechanical pain sensation, and in particular the mechanical hypersensitivity to normally innocuous stimuli that accompanies inflammation, nerve injury and trauma. Direct recording from VGLUT3(+) neurons in the DRG further identifies them as a poorly understood population of unmyelinated, low threshold mechanoreceptors (C-LTMRs). The analysis of Vglut3(-/-) mice now indicates a critical role for C-LTMRs in the mechanical hypersensitivity caused by injury.
Activation of primary afferent nociceptors produces acute, short-lived pain, and tissue or nerve injury induces long-term enhancement of nociceptive processing, manifested as hypersensitivity to thermal and mechanical stimulation. Here we used a chemical-genetic and pharmacological approach to study the contribution of the receptor tyrosine kinase, type 2 (TrkB) to the generation and maintenance of injury-induced persistent pain. We performed the studies in wild-type mice and transgenic (TrkB(F616A)) mice that express mutant but fully functional TrkB receptors. By injecting a small molecule derivative of the protein kinase inhibitor protein phosphatase 1 (1NM-PP1), it is possible to produce highly selective inhibition of TrkB autophosphorylation in adult mice, without interfering with the activity of other protein kinases. We report that oral administration of 1NM-PP1, at doses that blocked phosphorylation of TrkB in the spinal cord, had no effect in behavioral tests of acute heat, mechanical, or chemical pain sensitivity. However, the same pretreatment with 1NM-PP1 prevented the development of tissue- or nerve injury-induced heat and mechanical hypersensitivity. Established hypersensitivity was transiently reversed by intraperitoneal injection of 1NM-PP1. Although interfering with TrkB signaling altered neither acute capsaicin nor formalin-induced pain behavior, the prolonged mechanical hypersensitivity produced by these chemical injuries was prevented by 1NM-PP1 inhibition of TrkB signaling. We conclude that TrkB signaling is not only an important contributor to the induction of heat and mechanical hypersensitivity produced by tissue or nerve injury but also to the persistence of the pain.
Integrins are transmembrane receptors that promote neurite growth and guidance. To identify regulators of integrin-dependent neurite outgrowth, here we used two loss of function genetic screens in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. First, we screened a genome-wide retroviral library of genetic suppressor elements (GSEs). Among the many genes identified in the GSE screen, we isolated the hematopoetic transcriptional factor MTGR1 (myeloid translocation gene-related protein-1). Treatment of SH-SY5Y cells with MTGR1 siRNA enhanced neurite outgrowth and concurrently increased expression of GAP-43, a protein linked to neurite outgrowth. Second, we transduced SH-SY5Y with a genome-wide GFP-labeled lentiviral siRNA library, which expressed 40,000 independent siRNAs targeting 8500 human genes. From this screen we isolated GFI1 (growth factor independence-1), which, like MTGR1, is a member of the myeloid translocation gene on 8q22 (MTG8)/ETO protein complex of nuclear repressor proteins. These results reveal novel contributions of MTGR1 and GFI1 to the regulation of neurite outgrowth and identify novel repressors of integrin-dependent neurite outgrowth.
Descending projections arising from brainstem serotonergic (5HT) neurons contribute to both facilitatory and inhibitory controls of spinal cord "pain" transmission neurons. Unclear, however, are the brainstem networks that influence the output of these 5HT neurons. To address this question, here we used a novel neuroanatomical tracing method in a transgenic line of mice in which Cre recombinase is selectively expressed in 5HT neurons (ePet-Cre mice). Specifically, we injected the conditional pseudorabies virus recombinant (BA2001) that can replicate only in Cre-expressing neurons. Because BA2001 transports exclusively in a retrograde manner, we were able to reveal a subset of the neurons and circuits that are located upstream of the Cre-expressing 5HT neurons. We show that diverse brainstem regions differentially target the 5HT neurons of the dorsal raphe (DR) and the nucleus raphe magnus of the rostroventral medulla (RVM). Among these are several catecholaminergic and cholinergic cell groups, the periaqueductal gray, several brainstem reticular nuclei, and the nucleus of the solitary tract. We conclude that a brainstem 5HT network integrates somatic and visceral inputs arising from various areas of the body. We also identified a circuit that arises from projection neurons of deep spinal cord laminae V-VIII and targets the 5HT neurons of the NRM, but not of the DR. This spinoreticular pathway constitutes an anatomical substrate through which a noxious stimulus can activate 5HT neurons of the NRM and in turn could trigger descending serotonergic antinociceptive controls.
Delta and mu opioid receptors (DORs and MORs) are inhibitory G protein-coupled receptors that reportedly cooperatively regulate the transmission of pain messages by substance P and TRPV1-expressing pain fibers. Using a DOReGFP reporter mouse we now show that the DOR and MOR are, in fact, expressed by different subsets of primary afferents. The MOR is expressed in peptidergic pain fibers, the DOR in myelinated and nonpeptidergic afferents. Contrary to the prevailing view, we demonstrate that the DOR is trafficked to the cell surface under resting conditions, independently of substance P, and internalized following activation by DOR agonists. Finally, we show that the segregated DOR and MOR distribution is paralleled by a remarkably selective functional contribution of the two receptors to the control of mechanical and heat pain, respectively. These results demonstrate that behaviorally relevant pain modalities can be selectively regulated through the targeting of distinct subsets of primary afferent pain fibers.
We previously demonstrated that genetic and/or pharmacological ablation of the TRPV1+/peptidergic or the MrgprD+/non-peptidergic subset of nociceptors produced selective, modality-specific deficits in the behavioural responses to heat and mechanical stimuli, respectively. To assess whether this modality-specific contribution is also manifest at the level of spinal cord neuron responsiveness, here we made extracellular recordings from lumbar dorsal horn neurons of the mouse in response to graded thermal and mechanical stimulation. We found that, following intrathecal injection of capsaicin to eliminate the central terminals of TRPV1+ nociceptors, neurons in the region of laminae I and V of the spinal cord lost responsiveness to noxious heat (whether generated by a contact heat probe or diode laser), with no change in their response to noxious mechanical stimulation. In contrast, ablation of MrgprD+ afferents did not alter the response to noxious heat, but reduced the firing of superficial dorsal horn nociceptive-specific neurons in response to graded mechanical stimulation and decreased the relative number of wide dynamic range neurons that were exclusively mechanosensitive. Neither ablation procedure reduced the number of dorsal horn neurons that responded to noxious cold. These findings support the conclusion that TRPV1+ nociceptors are necessary and probably sufficient for noxious heat activation of dorsal horn neurons and that, despite their polymodal properties, TRPV1+ and MrgprD+ nociceptors provide modality-specific contributions to the response properties of spinal cord neurons.
Neuropathic pain is a chronic debilitating disease characterized by mechanical allodynia and spontaneous pain. Because symptoms are often unresponsive to conventional methods of pain treatment, new therapeutic approaches are essential. Here, we describe a strategy that not only ameliorates symptoms of neuropathic pain but is also potentially disease modifying. We show that transplantation of immature telencephalic GABAergic interneurons from the mouse medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) into the adult mouse spinal cord completely reverses the mechanical hypersensitivity produced by peripheral nerve injury. Underlying this improvement is a remarkable integration of the MGE transplants into the host spinal cord circuitry, in which the transplanted cells make functional connections with both primary afferent and spinal cord neurons. By contrast, MGE transplants were not effective against inflammatory pain. Our findings suggest that MGE-derived GABAergic interneurons overcome the spinal cord hyperexcitability that is a hallmark of nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain.
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