Wnt signaling represents a highly versatile signaling system, which plays diverse and critical roles in various aspects of neural development. Sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia require Wnt signaling for initial cell-fate determination as well as patterning and synapse formation. Here we report that Wnt signaling pathways persist in adult sensory neurons and play a functional role in their sensitization in a pathophysiological context. We observed that Wnt3a recruits the Wnt-calcium signaling pathway and the Wnt planar cell polarity pathway in peripheral nerves to alter pain sensitivity in a modality-specific manner and we elucidated underlying mechanisms. In contrast, biochemical, pharmacological, and genetic studies revealed lack of functional relevance for the classical canonical ?-catenin pathway in peripheral sensory neurons in acute modulation of nociception. Finally, this study provides proof-of-concept for a translational potential for Wnt3a-Frizzled3 signaling in alleviating disease-related pain hypersensitivity in cancer-associated pain in vivo.
The gate control theory proposes the importance of both pre- and post-synaptic inhibition in processing pain signal in the spinal cord. However, although postsynaptic disinhibition caused by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been proved as a crucial mechanism underlying neuropathic pain, the function of presynaptic inhibition in acute and neuropathic pain remains elusive. Here we show that a transient shift in the reversal potential (EGABA) together with a decline in the conductance of presynaptic GABAA receptor result in a reduction of presynaptic inhibition after nerve injury. BDNF mimics, whereas blockade of BDNF signalling reverses, the alteration in GABAA receptor function and the neuropathic pain syndrome. Finally, genetic disruption of presynaptic inhibition leads to spontaneous development of behavioural hypersensitivity, which cannot be further sensitized by nerve lesions or BDNF. Our results reveal a novel effect of BDNF on presynaptic GABAergic inhibition after nerve injury and may represent new strategy for treating neuropathic pain.
The use of opioid agonists acting outside the central nervous system (CNS) is a promising therapeutic strategy for pain control that avoids deleterious central side effects such as apnea and addiction. In human clinical trials and rat models of inflammatory pain, peripherally restricted opioids have repeatedly shown powerful analgesic effects; in some mouse models however, their actions remain unclear. Here, we investigated opioid receptor coupling to K(+) channels as a mechanism to explain such discrepancies. We found that GIRK channels, major effectors for opioid signalling in the CNS, are absent from mouse peripheral sensory neurons but present in human and rat. In vivo transgenic expression of GIRK channels in mouse nociceptors established peripheral opioid signalling and local analgesia. We further identified a regulatory element in the rat GIRK2 gene that accounts for differential expression in rodents. Thus, GIRK channels are indispensable for peripheral opioid analgesia, and their absence in mice has profound consequences for GPCR signalling in peripheral sensory neurons.
Post-translational modification of tubulin serves as a powerful means for rapidly adjusting the functional diversity of microtubules. Acetylation of the ?-amino group of K40 in ?-tubulin is one such modification that is highly conserved in ciliated organisms. Recently, ?TAT1, a Gcn5-related N-acetyltransferase, was identified as an ?-tubulin acetyltransferase in Tetrahymena and C. elegans. Here we generate mice with a targeted deletion of Atat1 to determine its function in mammals. Remarkably, we observe a loss of detectable K40 ?-tubulin acetylation in these mice across multiple tissues and in cellular structures such as cilia and axons where acetylation is normally enriched. Mice are viable and develop normally, however, the absence of Atat1 impacts upon sperm motility and male mouse fertility, and increases microtubule stability. Thus, ?TAT1 has a conserved function as the major ?-tubulin acetyltransferase in ciliated organisms and has an important role in regulating subcellular specialization of subsets of microtubules.
Inhibitory interneurons of the spinal dorsal horn play critical roles in the processing of noxious and innocuous sensory information. They form a family of morphologically and functionally diverse neurons that likely fall into distinct subtypes. Traditional classifications rely mainly on differences in dendritic tree morphology and firing patterns. Although useful, these markers are not comprehensive and cannot be used to drive specific genetic manipulations targeted at defined subsets of neurons. Here, we have used genome-wide expression profiling of spinal dorsal horns of wild-type mice and of two strains of transcription factor-deficient mice (Ptf1a(-/-) and Ascl1/Mash1(-/-) mice) to identify new genetic markers for specific subsets of dorsal horn inhibitory interneurons. Ptf1a(-/-) mice lack all inhibitory interneurons in the dorsal horn, whereas only the late-born inhibitory interneurons are missing in Ascl1(-/-) mice. We found 30 genes that were significantly downregulated in the dorsal horn of Ptf1a(-/-) mice. Twenty-one of those also showed reduced expression in Ascl1(-/-) mice. In situ hybridization analyses of all 30 genes identified four genes with primarily non-overlapping expression patterns in the dorsal horn. Three genes, pDyn coding the neuropeptide dynorphin, Kcnip2 encoding a potassium channel associated protein, and the nuclear receptor encoding gene Rorb, were expressed in Ascl1-dependent subpopulations of the superficial dorsal horn. The fourth gene, Tfap2b, encoding a transcription factor, is expressed mainly in a Ascl1-independent subpopulation of the deep dorsal horn. Functional experiments in isolated spinal cords showed that the Ascl1-dependent inhibitory interneurons are key players of nociceptive reflex plasticity.
The ideal fluorescent probe for bioimaging is bright, absorbs at long wavelengths and can be implemented flexibly in living cells and in vivo. However, the design of synthetic fluorophores that combine all of these properties has proved to be extremely difficult. Here, we introduce a biocompatible near-infrared silicon-rhodamine probe that can be coupled specifically to proteins using different labelling techniques. Importantly, its high permeability and fluorogenic character permit the imaging of proteins in living cells and tissues, and its brightness and photostability make it ideally suited for live-cell super-resolution microscopy. The excellent spectroscopic properties of the probe combined with its ease of use in live-cell applications make it a powerful new tool for bioimaging.
Neuro-immune alterations in the peripheral and central nervous system play a role in the pathophysiology of chronic pain, and non-coding RNAs - and microRNAs (miRNAs) in particular - regulate both immune and neuronal processes. Specifically, miRNAs control macromolecular complexes in neurons, glia and immune cells and regulate signals used for neuro-immune communication in the pain pathway. Therefore, miRNAs may be hypothesized as critically important master switches modulating chronic pain. In particular, understanding the concerted function of miRNA in the regulation of nociception and endogenous analgesia and defining the importance of miRNAs in the circuitries and cognitive, emotional and behavioral components involved in pain is expected to shed new light on the enigmatic pathophysiology of neuropathic pain, migraine and complex regional pain syndrome. Specific miRNAs may evolve as new druggable molecular targets for pain prevention and relief. Furthermore, predisposing miRNA expression patterns and inter-individual variations and polymorphisms in miRNAs and/or their binding sites may serve as biomarkers for pain and help to predict individual risks for certain types of pain and responsiveness to analgesic drugs. miRNA-based diagnostics are expected to develop into hands-on tools that allow better patient stratification, improved mechanism-based treatment, and targeted prevention strategies for high risk individuals.
Chloride is the most abundant physiological anion and participates in a variety of cellular processes including trans-epithelial transport, cell volume regulation, and regulation of electrical excitability. The development of tools to monitor intracellular chloride concentration ([Cli]) is therefore important for the evaluation of cellular function in normal and pathological conditions. Recently, several Cl-sensitive genetically encoded probes have been described which allow for non-invasive monitoring of [Cli]. Here we describe two mouse lines expressing a CFP-YFP-based Cl probe called Cl-Sensor. First, we generated transgenic mice expressing Cl-Sensor under the control of the mouse Thy1 mini promoter. Cl-Sensor exhibited good expression from postnatal day two (P2) in neurons of the hippocampus and cortex, and its level increased strongly during development. Using simultaneous whole-cell monitoring of ionic currents and Cl-dependent fluorescence, we determined that the apparent EC 50 for Cli was 46 mM, indicating that this line is appropriate for measuring neuronal [Cli] in postnatal mice. We also describe a transgenic mouse reporter line for Cre-dependent conditional expression of Cl-Sensor, which was targeted to the Rosa26 locus and by incorporating a strong exogenous promoter induced robust expression upon Cre-mediated recombination. We demonstrate high levels of tissue-specific expression in two different Cre-driver lines targeting cells of the myeloid lineage and peripheral sensory neurons. Using these mice the apparent EC 50 for Cli was estimated to be 61 and 54 mM in macrophages and DRG, respectively. Our data suggest that these mouse lines will be useful models for ratiometric monitoring of Cli in specific cell types in vivo.
Progress in the somatosensory field has been restricted by the limited number of genetic tools available to study gene function in peripheral sensory neurons. Here we generated a Cre-driver mouse line that expresses Cre-recombinase from the locus of the sensory neuron specific gene Advillin. These mice displayed almost exclusive Cre-mediated recombination in all peripheral sensory neurons. As such, the Advillin-Cre-driver line will be a powerful tool for targeting peripheral neurons in future investigations.
TRPV4 and the cellular cytoskeleton have each been reported to influence cellular mechanosensitive processes as well as the development of mechanical hyperalgesia. If and how TRPV4 interacts with the microtubule and actin cytoskeleton at a molecular and functional level is not known.
Cold allodynia is a common feature of neuropathic pain however the underlying mechanisms of this enhanced sensitivity to cold are not known. Recently the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels TRPM8 and TRPA1 have been identified and proposed to be molecular sensors for cold. Here we have investigated the expression of TRPM8 and TRPA1 mRNA in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and examined the cold sensitivity of peripheral sensory neurons in the chronic construction injury (CCI) model of neuropathic pain in mice.In behavioral experiments, chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve induced a hypersensitivity to both cold and the TRPM8 agonist menthol that developed 2 days post injury and remained stable for at least 2 weeks. Using quantitative RT-PCR and in situ hybridization we examined the expression of TRPM8 and TRPA1 in DRG. Both channels displayed significantly reduced expression levels after injury with no change in their distribution pattern in identified neuronal subpopulations. Furthermore, in calcium imaging experiments, we detected no alterations in the number of cold or menthol responsive neurons in the DRG, or in the functional properties of cold transduction following injury. Intriguingly however, responses to the TRPA1 agonist mustard oil were strongly reduced.Our results indicate that injured sensory neurons do not develop abnormal cold sensitivity after chronic constriction injury and that alterations in the expression of TRPM8 and TRPA1 are unlikely to contribute directly to the pathogenesis of cold allodynia in this neuropathic pain model.
Acetylation of ?-tubulin at lysine 40 (K40) is a well-conserved posttranslational modification that marks long-lived microtubules but has poorly understood functional significance. Recently, ?TAT1, a member of the Gcn5-related N-acetyltransferase superfamily, has been identified as an ?-tubulin acetyltransferase in ciliated organisms. Here, we explored the function of ?TAT1 with the aim of understanding the consequences of ?TAT1-mediated microtubule acetylation. We demonstrate that ?-tubulin is the major target of ?TAT1 but that ?TAT1 also acetylates itself in a regulatory mechanism that is required for effective modification of tubulin. We further show that in mammalian cells, ?TAT1 promotes microtubule destabilization and accelerates microtubule dynamics. Intriguingly, this effect persists in an ?TAT1 mutant with no acetyltransferase activity, suggesting that interaction of ?TAT1 with microtubules, rather than acetylation per se, is the critical factor regulating microtubule stability. Our data demonstrate that ?TAT1 has cellular functions that extend beyond its classical enzymatic activity as an ?-tubulin acetyltransferase.
Peripheral nerve injuries often trigger a hypersensitivity to tactile stimulation. Behavioural studies demonstrated efficient and side effect-free analgesia mediated by opioid receptors on peripheral sensory neurons. However, mechanistic approaches addressing such opioid properties in painful neuropathies are lacking. Here we investigated whether opioids can directly inhibit primary afferent neuron transmission of mechanical stimuli in neuropathy. We analysed the mechanical thresholds, the firing rates and response latencies of sensory fibres to mechanical stimulation of their cutaneous receptive fields.
The capacity to sense temperature is essential for the survival of all animals. At the molecular level, ion channels belonging to the transient receptor potential (TRP) family of channels function as temperature sensors in animals across several phyla. TRP channels are opened directly by changes in temperature and show pronounced sensitivity at their activation range. To determine how temperature activates these channels, we analysed channels belonging to the TRPA family, which detect heat in insects and cold in mammals. By constructing chimeric proteins consisting of human and Drosophila TRPA1 channels, we mapped regions that regulate thermal activation and identified residues in the pore helix that invert temperature sensitivity of TRPA1. From analysis of individual channels we defined the gating reaction of Drosophila TRPA1 and determined how mutagenesis alters the energy landscape for channel opening. Our results reveal specific molecular requirements for thermal activation of TRPA1 and provide mechanistic insight into this process.
A complex of stomatin-family proteins and acid-sensing (proton-gated) ion channel (ASIC) family members participate in sensory transduction in invertebrates and vertebrates. Here, we have examined the role of the stomatin-family protein stomatin-like protein-3 (STOML3) in this process. We demonstrate that STOML3 interacts with stomatin and ASIC subunits and that this occurs in a highly mobile vesicle pool in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons and Chinese hamster ovary cells. We identify a hydrophobic region in the N-terminus of STOML3 that is required for vesicular localization of STOML3 and regulates physical and functional interaction with ASICs. We further characterize STOML3-containing vesicles in DRG neurons and show that they are Rab11-positive, but not part of the early-endosomal, lysosomal or Rab14-dependent biosynthetic compartment. Moreover, uncoupling of vesicles from microtubules leads to incorporation of STOML3 into the plasma membrane and increased acid-gated currents. Thus, STOML3 defines a vesicle pool in which it associates with molecules that have critical roles in sensory transduction. We suggest that the molecular features of this vesicular pool may be characteristic of a transducosome in sensory neurons.
Microtubules (MTs) are formed from the lateral association of 11-16 protofilament chains of tubulin dimers, with most cells containing 13-protofilament (13-p) MTs. How these different MTs are formed is unknown, although the number of protofilaments may depend on the nature of the ?- and ?-tubulins.
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