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1.  Reversal of pancreatitis-induced pain by an orally available, small molecule interleukin-6 receptor antagonist 
Pain  2010;151(2):257-265.
Pancreatic pain resulting from chronic inflammation of the pancreas is often intractable and clinically difficult to manage with available analgesics reflecting the need for more effective therapies. Mechanisms underlying pancreatitis pain are not well understood. Here, the possibility that interleukin-6 (IL-6) may promote pancreatitis pain was investigated with TB-2-081 (3-O-formyl-20R,21-epoxyresibufogenin, EBRF), a small molecule IL-6 receptor antagonist that was semi-synthetically derived from natural sources. The potential activity and mechanism of TB-2-081 was investigated following induction of persistent pancreatitis using dibutyltin dichloride (DBTC) in rats. TB-2-081 displaces binding of IL-6 to the human recombinant soluble IL-6 receptor with apparent high affinity and inhibits IL-6 mediated cell growth. Systemic or oral, but not intrathecal, administration of TB-2-081 reversed DBTC-induced abdominal hypersensitivity in a dose- and time-dependent manner. IL-6 levels were significantly upregulated in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of rats with pancreatitis on day 6 after DBTC injection. IL-6 enhanced capsaicin-evoked release of calcitonin gene related peptide from cultured DRG neurons was blocked by TB-2-081. Our data demonstrate that TB-2-081 acts as a systemically available and orally active small molecule IL-6 receptor antagonist. TB-2-081 effectively reduces pancreatitis-induced pain through peripheral mechanisms that are likely due to (a) increased expression of IL-6 in the DRG and (b) IL-6-mediated sensitization of nociceptive neurons. The activity of TB-2-081 implicates an important role for IL-6 in sustaining pancreatitis pain. Strategies targeting IL-6 actions through small molecule antagonists may offer novel approaches to improve therapy of chronic pancreatitis and other chronic pain states.
PMCID: PMC3313485  PMID: 20599324
2.  Treatment of Inflamed Pancreas with Enkephalin Encoding HSV-1 Recombinant Vector Reduces Inflammatory Damage and Behavioral Sequelae 
This study assessed the efficacy of pancreatic surface delivered enkephalin (ENK)-encoding herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) on spontaneous behaviors and spinal cord and pancreatic enkephalin expression in an experimental pancreatitis model. Replication-defective HSV-1 with proenkephalin complementary DNA (cDNA) (HSV-ENK) or control β-galactosidase cDNA (HSV-β-gal), or media vehicle (Veh) was applied to the pancreatic surface of rats with dibutyltin dichloride (DBTC)-induced pancreatitis. Spontaneous exploratory behavioral activity was monitored on days 0 and 6 post DBTC and vector treatments. The pancreas, thoracic dorsal root ganglia (DRG, T9-10), and spinal cord (T9-10) were immunostained for metenkephalin (met-ENK), β-gal, and HSV-1 proteins. Spinal cord was also immunostained for c-Fos, and pancreas was stained for the inflammatory marker regulated on activation, normal T-cells expressed and secreted (RANTES), mu-opioid receptor, and hemotoxylin/eosin. On day 6, compared to pancreatitis and vector controls, the DBTC/HSV-ENK treated rats had significantly improved spontaneous exploratory activities, increased met-ENK staining in the pancreas and spinal cord, and normalized c-Fos staining in the dorsal horn. Histopathology of pancreas in DBTC/HSV-ENK treated rats showed preservation of acinar cells and cytoarchitecture with minimal inflammatory cell infiltrates, compared to severe inflammation and acinar cell loss seen in DBTC/HSV-β-gal and DBTC/Veh treated rats. Targeted transgene delivery and met-ENK expression successfully produced decreased inflammation in experimental pancreatitis.
PMCID: PMC2592562  PMID: 17565349
3.  Synergistic Role of TRPV1 and TRPA1 in Pancreatic Pain and Inflammation 
Gastroenterology  2010;140(4):1283-1291.e2.
Background & Aims
The transient receptor potential (TRP) channels TRPV1 and TRPA1 have each been associated with regulation of efferent properties of primary afferent neurons that initiate neurogenic inflammation and are required for the development of inflammatory hyperalgesia. To evaluate the role of these channels in producing pain during pancreatic inflammation, we studied pancreatic nodose (NG) and dorsal root (DRG) ganglion sensory neurons (identified by content of retrograde tracer) and behavioral outcomes in a mouse model of acute pancreatitis.
Pancreatic inflammation was induced by 8 hourly injections of caerulein (50 μg/kg). The extent of inflammation, pancreatic neuron TRP channel expression and function and excitability, and pain-related behaviors were evaluated over the course of the following week.
Histology and myeloperoxidase activity confirmed pancreatic inflammation that was associated with increased excitability and mRNA expression of the TRP channels in NG and DRG pancreatic neurons. Calcium imaging of pancreatic NG and DRG neurons from mice given caerulein revealed increased responses to TRP agonists. TRPV1 and TRPA1 antagonists attenuated caerulein-induced pain behaviors and pancreatic inflammation; they had a synergistic effect.
Pancreatic inflammation significantly increased the expression and functional properties of TRPV1 and TRPA1, as well as the excitability of pancreatic sensory neurons in vagal and spinal pathways. TRP channel antagonists acted synergistically to reverse pancreatic inflammation and associated pain behaviors; reagents that target interactions between these channels might be developed to reduce pain in patients with acute pancreatitis.
PMCID: PMC3066263  PMID: 21185837
nervous system; analgesia; pain relief; pancreas
4.  Monoarticular antigen-induced arthritis leads to pronounced bilateral upregulation of the expression of neurokinin 1 and bradykinin 2 receptors in dorsal root ganglion neurons of rats 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(5):424-427.
This study describes the upregulation of neurokinin 1 and bradykinin 2 receptors in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in the course of antigen-induced arthritis (AIA) in the rat knee. In the acute phase of AIA, which was characterized by pronounced hyperalgesia, there was a substantial bilateral increase in the proportion of lumbar DRG neurons that express neurokinin 1 receptors (activated by substance P) and bradykinin 2 receptors. In the chronic phase the upregulation of bradykinin 2 receptors persisted on the side of inflammation. The increase in the receptor expression is relevant for the generation of acute and chronic inflammatory pain.
Ongoing pain and hyperalgesia (enhanced pain response to stimulation of the tissue) are major symptoms of arthritis. Arthritic pain results from the activation and sensitization of primary afferent nociceptive nerve fibres ('pain fibres') supplying the tissue (peripheral sensitization) and from the activation and sensitization of nociceptive neurons in the central nervous system (central sensitization). After sensitization, nociceptive neurons respond more strongly to mechanical and thermal stimulation of the tissue, and their activation threshold is lowered. The activation and sensitization of primary afferent fibres results from the action of inflammatory mediators such as bradykinin (BK), prostaglandins and others on membrane receptors located on these neurons. BK is a potent pain-producing substance that is contained in inflammatory exudates. Up to 50% of the primary afferent nerve fibres have receptors for BK. When primary afferent nerve fibres are activated they can release neuropeptides such as substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide from their sensory endings in the tissue. SP contributes to the inflammatory changes in the innervated tissue (neurogenic inflammation), and it might also support the sensitization of nociceptive nerve fibres by binding to neurokinin 1 (NK1) receptors. NK1 receptors are normally expressed on a small proportion of the primary afferent nerve fibres.
Because the expression of receptors on the primary afferent neurons is essential for the pain-producing action of inflammatory mediators and neuropeptides, we investigated in the present study whether the expression of BK and NK1 receptors on primary afferent neurons is altered during the acute and chronic phases of an antigen-induced arthritis (AIA). AIA resembles in many aspects the inflammatory process of human rheumatoid arthritis. Because peptide receptors are expressed not only in the terminals of the primary afferent units but also in the cell bodies, we removed dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) of both sides from control rats and from rats with the acute or chronic phase of AIA and determined, after short-term culture of the neurons, the proportion of DRG neurons that expressed the receptors in the different phases of AIA. We also characterized the inflammatory process and the nociceptive behaviour of the rats in the course of AIA.
Materials and methods:
In 33 female Lewis rats 10 weeks old, AIA was induced in the right knee joint. First the rats were immunized in two steps with methylated bovine serum albumin (m-BSA) emulsified with Freund's complete adjuvant, and heat-inactivated Bordetella pertussis. After immunization, m-BSA was injected into the right knee joint cavity to induce arthritis. The joint swelling was measured at regular intervals. Nociceptive (pain) responses to mechanical stimulation of the injected and the contralateral knee were monitored in the course of AIA. Groups of rats were killed at different time points after the induction of AIA, and inflammation and destruction in the knee joint were graded by histological examination. The DRGs of both sides were dissected from segments L1–L5 and C1–C7 from arthritic rats, from eight immunized rats without arthritis and from ten normal control rats. Excised DRGs were dissociated into single cells which were cultured for 18 h.
The expression of the receptors was determined by assessment of the binding of SP-gold or BK-gold to the cultured neurons. For this purpose the cells were slightly fixed. Binding of SP-gold or BK-gold was detected by using enhancement with silver and subsequent densitometric analysis of the relative grey values of the neurons. Displacement controls were performed with SP, the specific NK1 receptor agonist [Sar9, Met(O2)11]-SP, BK, the specific BK 1 (B1) receptor agonist D-Arg (Hyp3-Thi5,8-D-Phe7)-BK and the specific BK 2 (B2) receptor agonist (Des-Arg10)-Lys-BK.
The inflammatory process in the injected right knee joint started on the first day after induction of AIA and persisted throughout the observation period of 84 days (Fig. 1). The initial phase of AIA was characterized by strong joint swelling and a predominantly granulocytic infiltration of the synovial membrane and the joint cavity (acute inflammatory changes). In the later phases of AIA (10–84 days after induction of AIA) the joint showed persistent swelling, and signs of chronic arthritic alterations such as infiltration of mononuclear leucocytes, hyperplasia of synovial lining layer (pannus formation) and erosions of cartilage and bone were predominant. The contralateral knee joints appeared normal at all time points. Destruction was observed only in the injected knee but some proteoglycan loss was also noted in the non-injected, contralateral knee. In the acute and initial chronic phases of AIA (1–29 days) the rats showed mechanical hyperalgesia in the inflamed knee (limping, withdrawal response to gentle pressure onto the knee). In the acute phase (up to 9 days) a pain response was also seen when gentle pressure was applied to the contralateral knee.
Figure 2 displays the changes in the receptor expression in the DRG neurons during AIA. The expression of SP–gold-binding sites in lumbar DRG neurons (Fig. 2a) was substantially increased in the acute phase of arthritis. In untreated control rats (n = 5), 7.7 ± 3.8% of the DRG neurons from the right side and 10.0 ± 1.7% of the DRG neurons from the left side showed labelling with SP–gold. The proportion of SP–gold-labelled neurons in immunized animals without knee injection (n = 3) was similar. By contrast, at days 1 (n = 2 rats) and 3 (n = 5 rats) of AIA in the right knee, approximately 50% of the DRG neurons exhibited labelling with SP–gold, and this was seen both on the side of the injected knee and on the opposite side. At day 10 of AIA (n = 3 rats), 26.3 ± 6.1% of the ipsilateral DRG neurons but only 15.7 ± 0.6% of the contralateral neurons exhibited binding of SP–gold. At days 21 (n = 5 rats), 42 (n = 3 rats) and 84 (n = 5 rats) of AIA, the proportion of SP–gold-positive neurons had returned to the control values, although the arthritis, now with signs of chronic inflammation, was still present. Compared with the DRG neurons of the untreated control rats, the increase in the proportion of labelled neurons was significant on both sides in the acute phase (days 1 and 3) and the intermediate phase (day 10) of AIA (Mann–Whitney U-test). The size distribution of the neurons was similar in the DRG neurons of all experimental groups. Under all conditions and at all time points, SP–gold binding was found mainly in small and medium-sized (less than 700 μm2) neurons. In the cervical DRGs the expression of NK1 receptors did not change in the course of AIA. The binding of SP–gold to the neurons was suppressed by the coadministration of the specific NK1 receptor agonist [Sar9, Met(O2)11]–SP in three experiments, showing that SP–gold was bound to NK1 receptors.
The expression of BK–gold-binding sites in the lumbar DRG neurons showed also changes in the course of AIA, but the pattern was different (Fig. 2b). In untreated control rats (n = 5), 42.3 ± 3.1% of the DRG neurons of the right side and 39.6 ± 2.6% of the DRG neurons of the left side showed binding of BK–gold. At days 1 (n = 2 rats) and 3 (n = 5 rats) of AIA, approximately 80% of the DRG neurons on the side of the knee injection (ipsilateral) and approximately 70% on the opposite side were labelled. In comparison with the untreated control group, the increase in the proportion of labelled neurons was significant on both sides. The proportion of labelled neurons in the ipsilateral DRGs remained significantly increased in both the intermediate phase (day 10, n = 3 rats) and chronic phase (days 21, n = 5 rats, and 42, n = 3 rats) of inflammation. At 84 days after the induction of AIA (n = 5 rats), 51.0 ± 12.7% of the neurons showed an expression of BK–gold-binding sites and this was close to the prearthritic values. However, in the contralateral DRG of the same animals the proportion of BK–gold-labelled neurons declined in the intermediate phase (day 10) and chronic phase (days 21–84) of AIA and was not significantly different from the control value. Thus the increase in BK–gold-labelled neurons was persistent on the side where the inflammation had been induced, and transient on the opposite side. The size distribution of the DRG neurons of the different experimental groups was similar. In the cervical DRGs the expression of BK receptors did not change in the course of AIA. In another series of experiments, we determined the subtype(s) of BK receptor(s) that were expressed in DRGs L1–L5 in different experimental groups. In neither untreated control animals (n = 5) nor immunized rats without knee injection (n = 5) nor in rats at 3 days (n = 5) and 42 days (n = 5) of AIA was the binding of BK–gold decreased by the coadministration of BK–gold and the B1 agonist. By contrast, in these experimental groups the binding of BK–gold was suppressed by the coadministration of the B2 agonist. These results show that B2 receptors, but not B1 receptors, were expressed in both normal animals and in animals with AIA.
These results show that in AIA in the rat the expression of SP-binding and BK-binding sites in the perikarya of DRGs L1–L5 is markedly upregulated in the course of knee inflammation. Although the inflammation was induced on one side only, the initial changes in the binding sites were found in the lumbar DRGs of both sides. No upregulation of SP-binding or BK-binding sites was observed in the cervical DRGs. The expression of SP-binding sites was upregulated only in the first days of AIA, that is, in the acute phase, in which the pain responses to mechanical stimulation were most pronounced. By contrast, the upregulation of BK-binding sites on the side of AIA persisted for up to 42 days, that is, in the acute and chronic phase of AIA. Only the B2 receptor, not the B1 receptor, was upregulated. The coincidence of the enhanced expression of NK1 and BK receptors on sensory neurons and the pain behaviour suggests that the upregulation of these receptors is relevant for the generation and maintenance of arthritic pain.
In the acute phase of AIA, approximately 50% of the lumbar DRG neurons showed an expression of SP-binding sites. Because peptide receptors are transported to the periphery, the marked upregulation of SP-binding receptors probably leads to an enhanced density of receptors in the sensory endings of the primary afferent units. This will permit SP to sensitize more neurons under inflammatory conditions than under normal conditions. However, the expression of NK1 receptors was upregulated only in the acute phase of inflammation, suggesting that SP and NK1 receptors are less important for the generation of hyperalgesia in the chronic phase of AIA.
Because BK is one of the most potent algesic compounds, the functional consequence of the upregulation of BK receptors is likely to be of immediate importance for the generation and maintenance of inflammatory pain. The persistence of the upregulation of BK receptors on the side of inflammation suggests that BK receptors should be an interesting target for pain treatment in the acute and chronic phases. Only B2 receptors were identified in normal animals and in rats with AIA. This is surprising because previous pharmacological studies have provided evidence that, during inflammation, B1 receptors can be newly expressed.
Receptor upregulation in the acute phase of AIA was bilateral and almost symmetrical. However, hyperalgesia was much more pronounced on the inflamed side. It is most likely that receptors on the contralateral side were not readily activated because in the absence of gross inflammation the local concentration of the ligands BK and SP was probably quite low. We hypothesize that the bilateral changes in receptor expression are generated at least in part by mechanisms involving the nervous system. Symmetrical segmental changes can be produced only by the symmetrical innervation, involving either the sympathetic nervous system or the primary afferent fibres. Under inflammatory conditions, primary afferent fibres can be antidromically activated bilaterally in the entry zone of afferent fibres in the spinal cord, and it was proposed that this antidromic activation might release neuropeptides and thus contribute to neurogenic inflammation. Because both sympathetic efferent fibres and primary afferent nerve fibres can aggravate inflammatory symptoms, it is also conceivable that they are involved in the regulation of receptor expression in primary afferent neurons. A neurogenic mechanism might also have been responsible for the bilateral degradation of articular cartilage in the present study.
PMCID: PMC17819  PMID: 11056677
antigen-induced arthritis; bradykinin receptor; dorsal root ganglion neurons; neurokinin 1 receptor; pain
5.  Mineralocorticoid receptor blocker eplerenone reduces pain behaviors in vivo and decreases excitability in small diameter sensory neurons from local inflamed dorsal root ganglia in vitro 
Anesthesiology  2012;117(5):1102-1112.
Inflammation of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) may contribute to low back pain, postherpetic neuralgia, and neuropathic pain. The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) plays a pro-inflammatory role in many non-renal tissues, but its role in peripheral pain at the DRG level is not well studied.
Local inflammation of the L5 DRG with the immune activator zymosan rapidly leads to mechanical hypersensitivity and increased excitability of sensory neurons. Using this pain model, we applied the MR antagonist eplerenone locally to the inflamed DRG. Excitability of small diameter sensory neurons was examined in acute primary culture, using patch clamp techniques.
Local eplerenone significantly reduced the mechanical hypersensitivity and shortened its duration. The same dose was ineffective systemically. Immunohistochemical studies showed the MR was present in most neurons, and rapidly translocated to the nucleus 1 day after local DRG inflammation. Activation of satellite glia (defined by expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein) in the inflamed DRG was also reduced by local eplerenone. Increased excitability of small diameter sensory neurons 1 day after inflammation could be observed in vitro. Eplerenone applied in vitro (8 – 12 hours) could reverse this increased excitability. Eplerenone had no effect in neurons isolated from normal, uninflamed DRG. The MR agonist aldosterone (10 nM) applied in vitro increased excitability of neurons isolated from normal DRG.
The MR may have a pro-nociceptive role in the DRG. Some of its effects may be mediated by neuronal MR. The MR may represent a novel therapeutic target in some pain syndromes.
PMCID: PMC3482280  PMID: 23023156
6.  Intrathecal cannabilactone CB2R agonist, AM1710, controls pathological pain and restores basal cytokine levels 
Pain  2012;153(5):1091-1106.
Spinal glial and proinflammatory cytokine actions are strongly implicated in pathological pain. Spinal administration of the anti-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-10 (IL-10) abolishes pathological pain and suppresses proinflammatory interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α). Drugs that bind the cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2R) expressed on spinal glia reduce mechanical hypersensitivity. To better understand the CB2R-related anti-inflammatory profile of key anatomical nociceptive regions, we assessed mechanical hypersensitivity and protein profiles following intrathecal application of the cannabilactone CB2R agonist, AM1710, in two animal models; unilateral sciatic nerve chronic constriction injury(CCI), and spinal application of HIV-1 glycoprotein 120 (gp120), a model of peri-spinal immune activation. In CCI animals, lumbar dorsal spinal cord and corresponding dorsal root ganglia (DRG) were evaluated by immunohistochemistry for expression of IL-10, IL-1β, phosphorylated p38-mitogen-activated-kinase (p-p38MAPK), a pathway associated with proinflammatory cytokine production, glial cell markers, and degradative endocannabinoid enzymes including monoacyl glycerol lipase (MAGL). AM1710 reversed bilateral mechanical hypersensitivity. CCI revealed decreased IL-10 expression in dorsal spinal cord and DRG while AM1710 resulted in increased IL-10, comparable to controls. Adjacent DRG and spinal sections revealed increased IL-1β, p-p38MAPK, glial markers and/or MAGL expression, while AM1710 suppressed all but spinal p-p38MAPK and microglial activation. In spinal gp120 animals, AM1710 prevented bilateral mechanical hypersensitivity. For comparison to immunohistochemistry, IL-1β and TNF-α protein quantification from lumbar spinal and DRG homogenates was determined, and revealed increased DRG IL-1β protein levels from gp120, that was robustly prevented by AM1710 pretreatment. Cannabilactone CB2R agonists are emerging as anti-inflammatory agents with pain therapeutic implications.
PMCID: PMC3603341  PMID: 22425445
cannabinoid; CCI; paraffin immunohistochemistry; rat; spectral analysis; gp120
7.  Distribution and Neurochemical Identification of Pancreatic Afferents in the Mouse 
Dysfunction of primary afferents innervating the pancreas has been shown to contribute to the development of painful symptoms during acute and chronic pancreatitis. To investigate the distribution and neurochemical phenotype of pancreatic afferents, Alexa Fluor-conjugated cholera toxin B (CTB) was injected into the pancreatic head (CTB-488) and tail (CTB-555) of adult male mice to label neurons retrogradely in both the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and nodose ganglia (NG). The NG and DRG (T5–T13) were processed for fluorescent immunohistochemistry and visualized by using confocal microscopy. Spinal pancreatic afferents were observed from T5 to T13, with the greatest contribution coming from T9–T12. The pancreatic afferents were equally distributed between right and left spinal ganglia; however, the innervation from the left NG was significantly greater than from the right. For both spinal and vagal afferents there was significantly greater innervation of the pancreatic head relative to the tail. The total number of retrogradely labeled afferents in the nodose was very similar to the total number of DRG afferents. The neurochemical phenotype of DRG neurons was dominated by transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1)-positive neurons (75%), GDNF family receptor alpha-3 (GFRα3)-positive neurons (67%), and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-positive neurons(65%) neurons. In the NG, TRPV1-, GFRα3-, and CGRP-positive neurons constituted only 35%, 1%, and 15% of labeled afferents, respectively. The disparity in peptide and receptor expression between pancreatic afferents in the NG and DRG suggests that even though they contribute a similar number of primary afferents to the pancreas, these two populations may differ in regard to their nociceptive properties and growth factor dependency.
PMCID: PMC2677067  PMID: 18418900
TRPV1; CGRP; retrograde labeling; immunohistochemistry; dorsal root ganglion; nodose ganglia; visceral pain
8.  Up-regulation of dorsal root ganglia BDNF and trkB receptor in inflammatory pain: an in vivo and in vitro study 
During inflammation, immune cells accumulate in damaged areas and release pro-inflammatory cytokines and neurotrophins. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a neuromodulatory role in spinal cord dorsal horn via the post-synaptic tyrosine protein kinase B (trkB) receptor to facilitate pain transmission. However, the precise role of BDNF and trkB receptor in the primary sensory neurons of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) during inflammation remains to be clarified. The aim of this study was to investigate whether and how BDNF-trkB signaling in the DRG is involved in the process of inflammatory pain.
We used complete Freund's adjuvant- (CFA-) induced and tumor necrosis factor-α- (TNF-α-) induced inflammation in rat hindpaw as animal models of inflammatory pain. Quantification of protein and/or mRNA levels of pain mediators was performed in separate lumbar L3-L5 DRGs. The cellular mechanism of TNF-α-induced BDNF and/or trkB receptor expression was examined in primary DRG cultures collected from pooled L1-L6 DRGs. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), BDNF and substance P release were also evaluated by enzyme immunoassay.
CFA injection into rat hindpaw resulted in mechanical hyperalgesia and significant increases in levels of TNF-α in the inflamed tissues, along with enhancement of BDNF and trkB receptor as well as the pain mediators CGRP and transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (TRPV1) in DRG. Direct injection of TNF-α into rat hindpaw resulted in similar effects with retrograde transport of TNF-α along the saphenous nerve to DRG during CFA-induced inflammation. Primary DRG cultures chronically treated with TNF-α showed significant enhancement of mRNA and protein levels of BDNF and trkB receptor, BDNF release and trkB-induced phospho-ERK1/2 signal. Moreover, CGRP and substance P release were enhanced in DRG cultures after chronic TNF-α treatment or acute BDNF stimulation. In addition, we found that BDNF up-regulated trkB expression in DRG cultures.
Based on our current experimental results, we conclude that inflammation and TNF-α up-regulate the BDNF-trkB system in DRG. This phenomenon suggests that up-regulation of BDNF in DRG may, in addition to its post-synaptic effect in spinal dorsal horn, act as an autocrine and/or paracrine signal to activate the pre-synaptic trkB receptor and regulate synaptic excitability in pain transmission, thereby contributing to the development of hyperalgesia.
PMCID: PMC3203068  PMID: 21958434
9.  Temporal changes in MrgC expression after spinal nerve injury 
Neuroscience  2013;261:43-51.
Mas-related G-protein-coupled receptor subtype C (MrgC) may play an important role in pain sensation. However, the distribution of MrgC receptors in different subpopulations of rodent dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons has not been clearly demonstrated owing to a lack of MrgC-selectively antibody. It is also unclear whether peripheral nerve injury induces different time-dependent changes in MrgC expression in injured and uninjured DRG neurons. Here we showed that MrgC immunoreactivity is distributed in both IB4-positive (non-peptidergic) and calcitonin gene-related peptide-positive (peptidergic) DRG neurons in mice and rats. Importantly, the MrgC mRNA level and MrgC immunoreactivity were both decreased in the injured L5 DRG compared to corresponding levels in the contralateral (uninjured) DRG in rats on days 14 and 30 after an L5 spinal nerve ligation. In contrast, mRNA and protein levels of MrgC were increased in the adjacent uninjured L4 DRG. Thus, nerve injury may induce temporal changes in MrgC expression that differ between injured and uninjured DRG neurons. In animal behavior tests, chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve induced mechanical pain hypersensitivity in wild-type mice and Mrg-clusterΔ−/− mice (Mrg KO). However, the duration of mechanical hypersensitivity was longer in the Mrg KO mice than in their wild-type littermates, indicating that activation of Mrgs may constitute an endogenous mechanism that inhibits the maintenance of neuropathic pain. These findings extend our knowledge about the distribution of MrgC in rodent DRG neurons and the regulation of its expression by nerve injury.
PMCID: PMC3945476  PMID: 24374082
MrgC; dorsal root ganglion; neuropathic pain; nerve injury
10.  CXCR4 chemokine receptor signaling mediates pain hypersensitivity in association with antiretroviral toxic neuropathy 
Brain, behavior, and immunity  2007;21(5):581-591.
Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) are known to produce painful neuropathies and to enhance states of pain hypersensitivity produced by HIV-1 infection. It has also been observed that in some neuropathic pain models, chemokines and their receptors are upregulated, perhaps contributing to the pain state. In order to understand if chemokines are involved in NRTI-mediated sensory neuropathies, we treated rats with the anti-retroviral drug, 2′,3′- dideoxycytidine (ddC), which is known to produce an extended period of hyperalgesia and allodynia. Using in situ hybridization, we observed that under normal conditions, CXCR4 chemokine receptors were widely expressed by satellite glia in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and Schwann cells in the sciatic nerve. A limited number of DRG neurons also expressed CXCR4 receptors. The chemokine SDF-1/CXCL12 was similarly expressed in glial cells in the DRG and peripheral nerve. Following a single administration of ddC, expression levels of CXCR4 mRNA in glia and neurons and SDF-1 mRNA in glia increased considerably. The functional nature of increased CXCR4 mRNA expression was confirmed by measuring SDF-1 induced [Ca2+]i increases in acutely isolated DRG neurons and glia. In contrast, the expression of the chemokine receptors CCR2 and CCR5 did not change following ddC treatment. Pain hypersensitivity produced by ddC could be inhibited by treatment with the CXCR4 antagonist, AMD3100. Hence, we postulate that NRTIs produce pain hypersensitivity through the upregulation of CXCR4 signaling in the DRG. Increased numbers of CXCR4 receptors would also explain the synergism observed between NRTI treatment and the proalgesic effects of HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC2062574  PMID: 17292584
11.  Neuroplastic changes occur early in the development of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma 
Cancer research  2014;74(6):1718-1727.
Perineural tumor invasion of intrapancreatic nerves, neurogenic inflammation, and tumor metastases along extrapancreatic nerves are key features of pancreatic malignancies. Animal studies show that chronic pancreatic inflammation produces hypertrophy and hypersensitivity of pancreatic afferents and that sensory fibers may themselves drive inflammation via neurogenic mechanisms. Whereas genetic mutations are required for cancer development, inflammation has been shown to be a precipitating event that can accelerate the transition of precancerous lesions to cancer. These observations led us to hypothesize that inflammation that accompanies early phases of PDAC would produce pathologic changes in pancreatic neurons and innervation. Using a lineage labeled genetically engineered mouse model of PDAC we found that pancreatic neurotrophic factor mRNA expression and sensory innervation increased dramatically when only pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) were apparent. These changes correlated with pain-related decreases in exploratory behavior and increased expression of nociceptive genes in sensory ganglia. At later stages, cells of pancreatic origin could be found in the celiac and sensory ganglia along with metastases to the spinal cord. These results demonstrate that the nervous system participates in all stages of PDAC, including those that precede appearance of cancer.
PMCID: PMC4036226  PMID: 24448244
neurotrophic factors; pain; peripheral nervous system; perineural invasion; metastases
12.  Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Is Upregulated in Rats With Chronic Pancreatitis and Mediates Pain Behavior 
Pancreas  2011;40(4):551-556.
We examined the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the pathogenesis of pain in an experimental model of chronic pancreatitis (CP).
Pancreatitis was induced by retrograde infusion of trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid into the pancreatic duct of adult rats. Twenty-one days after injection, BDNF expression was examined in pancreas-specific dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) by immunohistochemistry, and protein levels were quantified from DRGs and spinal cord extracts. The effects of intrathecal infusion of a neutralizing antibody to BDNF on pancreatic hyperalgesia were assessed by the sensitivity of the abdominal wall to filament probing as well as the nocifensive behavior to electrical stimulation of the pancreas.
Levels of BDNF in DRGs and spinal cords (T9-13) were significantly higher in trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid rats compared with controls, accompanied by an increase in the number of pancreas-specific neurons expressing BDNF immunoreactivity. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor antagonism suppressed phospho–tropomyosin-related kinase B receptor levels in the spinal cord and significantly reduced behavioral responses in rats with CP.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is upregulated in pancreas-specific primary afferent neurons in rats with CP, and BDNF antagonism is associated with a reduction of pain-related behavior in these animals, suggesting an important role for this neurotransmitter in the nociception of CP.
PMCID: PMC4090218  PMID: 21499209
chronic pancreatitis; visceral pain; sensory neurons; BDNF; TrkB
13.  Methylglyoxal Evokes Pain by Stimulating TRPA1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77986.
Diabetic neuropathy is a severe complication of long-standing diabetes and one of the major etiologies of neuropathic pain. Diabetes is associated with an increased formation of reactive oxygen species and the electrophilic dicarbonyl compound methylglyoxal (MG). Here we show that MG stimulates heterologously expressed TRPA1 in CHO cells and natively expressed TRPA1 in MDCK cells and DRG neurons. MG evokes [Ca2+]i-responses in TRPA1 expressing DRG neurons but is without effect in neurons cultured from Trpa1−/− mice. Consistent with a direct, intracellular action, we show that methylglyoxal is significantly more potent as a TRPA1 agonist when applied to the intracellular face of excised membrane patches than to intact cells. Local intraplantar administration of MG evokes a pain response in Trpa1+/+ but not in Trpa1−/− mice. Furthermore, persistently increased MG levels achieved by two weeks pharmacological inhibition of glyoxalase-1 (GLO-1), the rate-limiting enzyme responsible for detoxification of MG, evokes a progressive and marked thermal (cold and heat) and mechanical hypersensitivity in wildtype but not in Trpa1−/− mice. Our results thus demonstrate that TRPA1 is required both for the acute pain response evoked by topical MG and for the long-lasting pronociceptive effects associated with elevated MG in vivo. In contrast to our observations in DRG neurons, MG evokes indistinguishable [Ca2+]i-responses in pancreatic β-cells cultured from Trpa1+/+ and Trpa1−/− mice. In vivo, the TRPA1 antagonist HC030031 impairs glucose clearance in the glucose tolerance test both in Trpa1+/+ and Trpa1−/− mice, indicating a non-TRPA1 mediated effect and suggesting that results obtained with this compound should be interpreted with caution. Our results show that TRPA1 is the principal target for MG in sensory neurons but not in pancreatic β-cells and that activation of TRPA1 by MG produces a painful neuropathy with the behavioral hallmarks of diabetic neuropathy.
PMCID: PMC3805573  PMID: 24167592
14.  Sigma-1 receptor expression in sensory neurons and the effect of painful peripheral nerve injury 
Molecular Pain  2013;9:47.
The sigma-1 receptor (σ1R), an endoplasmic reticulum chaperone protein, is widely distributed and regulates numerous intracellular processes in neurons. Nerve injury alters the structure and function of axotomized dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, contributing to the development of pain. The σ1R is enriched in the spinal cord and modulates pain after peripheral nerve injury. However, σ1R expression in the DRG has not been studied. We therefore characterized σ1R expression in DRGs at baseline and following spinal nerve ligation (SNL) in rats.
Immunohistochemical (IHC) studies in DRG sections show σ1R in both neuronal somata and satellite glial cells. The punctate distribution of σ1R in the neuronal cytoplasm suggests expression in the endoplasmic reticulum. When classified by neuronal size, large neurons (>1300 μm) showed higher levels of σ1R staining than other groups (700-1300 μm, <700 μm). Comparing σ1R expression in neuronal groups characterized by expression of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), isolectin-B4 (IB4) and neurofilament-200 (NF-200), we found σ1R expression in all three neuronal subpopulations, with highest levels of σ1R expression in the NF-200 group. After SNL, lysates from L5 DRGs that contains axotomized neurons showed decreased σ1R protein but unaffected transcript level, compared with Control DRGs. IHC images also showed decreased σ1R protein expression, in SNL L5 DRGs, and to a lesser extent in the neighboring SNL L4 DRGs. Neurons labeled by CGRP and NF-200 showed decreased σ1R expression in L5 and, to a lesser extent, L4 DRGs. In IB4-labeled neurons, σ1R expression decreased only in axotomized L5 DRGs. Satellite cells also showed decreased σ1R expression in L5 DRGs after SNL.
Our data show that σ1R is present in both sensory neurons and satellite cells in rat DRGs. Expression of σ1R is down-regulated in axotomized neurons as well as in their accompanying satellite glial cells, while neighboring uninjured neurons show a lesser down-regulation. Therefore, elevated σ1R expression in neuropathic pain is not an explanation for pain relief after σ1R blockade. This implies that increased levels of endogenous σ1R agonists may play a role, and diminished neuroprotection from loss of glial σ1R may be a contributing factor.
PMCID: PMC3847629  PMID: 24015960
Sigma-1 receptor; Neuropathic pain; Peripheral nerve injury; Endoplasmic reticulum; Sensory neuron; Dorsal root ganglion
15.  Expression and distribution of mTOR, p70S6K, 4E-BP1, and their phosphorylated counterparts in rat dorsal root ganglion and spinal cord dorsal horn 
Brain research  2010;1336C:46-57.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) controls protein translation and has an important role in the mechanism of pain hypersensitivity under persistent pain conditions. However, its expression and localization in pain-related regions of the nervous system is not completely understood. Here, we examined the expression and distribution of mTOR, eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding protein1/2 (4E-BP1/2), p70 ribosomal S6 protein kinase (p70S6K), and their phosphorylated (active) counterparts in two major pain-related regions, the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and spinal cord dorsal horn. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction showed that mTOR, 4E-BP1, and p70S6K mRNA are expressed in the DRG and dorsal horn. Western blot analysis further confirmed the existence of their protein products in these two regions, but expression of their phosphorylated counterparts was very low in dorsal horn and was not detected in the DRG. Immunohistochemistry revealed mTOR and p70S6K in the DRG neurons. Quantitative analysis showed that approximately 26.1% (± 3.2%) of DRG neurons were positive for mTOR and 19.1% (± 1.9%) were positive for p70S6K. Most of these neurons were small—less than 600 μm2 in cross-sectional area—and some co-labeled with substance P or isolectin B4. Surprisingly, 4E-BP1 was observed only in the DRG satellite glial cells. In the dorsal horn, mTOR, p70S6K, and 4E-BP1 were detected in neurons, but not in astrocytes or microglia. They were distributed in the whole dorsal horn, especially in the superficial dorsal horn. Immunostaining for their phosphorylated counterparts was very low or undetectable in DRG and dorsal horn. Behavioral study showed that intrathecal mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, did not affect acute nocicepetive transmission. The results indicate that although mTOR, p70S6K, and 4E-BP1 are highly expressed in the DRG and dorsal horn, their activate forms are very low in both regions under normal conditions. Our findings support the view that mTOR and its downstream effectors do not play a key role in acute pain.
PMCID: PMC2874637  PMID: 20399760
mTOR; p70S6K; 4E-BP1; dorsal root ganglion; dorsal horn; expression; distribution; rat
16.  SDF1–CXCR4 signaling contributes to persistent pain and hypersensitivity via regulating excitability of primary nociceptive neurons: involvement of ERK-dependent Nav1.8 up-regulation 
Pain is one critical hallmark of inflammatory responses. A large number of studies have demonstrated that stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF1, also named as CXCL12) and its cognate receptor C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR4) play an important role in immune reaction and inflammatory processes. However, whether and how SDF1–CXCR4 signaling is involved in inflammatory pain remains unclear.
Under the intraplantar ( bee venom (BV) injection-induced persistent inflammatory pain state, the changes of SDF1 and CXCR4 expression and cellular localization in the rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) were detected by immunofluorescent staining. The role of SDF1 and CXCR4 in the hyperexcitability of primary nociceptor neurons was assessed by electrophysiological recording. Western blot analysis was used to quantify the DRG Nav1.8 and phosphorylation of ERK (pERK) expression. Behavioral tests were conducted to evaluate the roles of CXCR4 as well as extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and Nav1.8 in the BV-induced persistent pain and hypersensitivity.
We showed that both SDF1 and CXCR4 were dramatically up-regulated in the DRG in BV-induced inflammatory pain model. Double immunofluorescent staining showed that CXCR4 was localized in all sizes (large, medium, and small) of DRG neuronal soma, while SDF1 was exclusively expressed in satellite glial cells (SGCs). Electrophysiological recording showed that bath application with AMD3100, a potent and selective CXCR4 inhibitor, could reverse the hyperexcitability of medium- and small-sized DRG neurons harvested from rats following BV injection. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the BV-induced ERK activation and Nav1.8 up-regulation in the DRG could be blocked by pre-antagonism against CXCR4 in the periphery with AMD3100 as well as by blockade of ERK activation by intrathecal (i.t.) or intraplantar ( U0126. At behavioral level, the BV-induced persistent spontaneous pain as well as primary mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity could also be significantly suppressed by blocking CXCR4 and Nav1.8 in the periphery as well as by inhibition of ERK activation at the DRG level.
The present results suggest that peripheral inflammatory pain state can trigger over release of SDF1 from the activated SGCs in the DRG by which SGC-neuronal cross-talk is mediated by SDF1–CXCR4 coupling that result in subsequent ERK-dependent Nav1.8 up-regulation, leading to hyperexcitability of tonic type of the primary nociceptor cells and development and maintenance of persistent spontaneous pain and hypersensitivity.
PMCID: PMC4657286  PMID: 26597700
Inflammatory pain; Chemokines; SDF1; CXCR4; Nav1.8; Dorsal root ganglion; ERK signaling
17.  A Novel Bidirectional Interaction between endothelin-3 and Retinoic Acid in Rat Enteric Nervous System Precursors 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74311.
Signaling through the endothelin receptor B (EDNRB) is critical for the development of the enteric nervous system (ENS) and mutations in endothelin system genes cause Hirschsprung’s aganglionosis in humans. Penetrance of the disease is modulated by other genetic factors. Mutations affecting retinoic acid (RA) signaling also produce aganglionosis in mice. Thus, we hypothesized that RA and endothelin signaling pathways may interact in controlling development of the ENS.
Rat immunoselected ENS precursor cells were cultured with the EDNRB ligand endothelin-3, an EDNRB-selective antagonist (BQ-788), and/or RA for 3 or 14 days. mRNA levels of genes related to ENS development, RA- and EDNRB-signaling were measured at 3 days. Proliferating cells and cells expressing neuronal, glial, and myofibroblast markers were quantified.
Culture of isolated ENS precursors for 3 days with RA decreases expression of the endothelin-3 gene and that of its activation enzyme. These changes are associated with glial proliferation, a higher percentage of glia, and a lower percentage of neurons compared to cultures without RA. These changes are independent of EDNRB signaling. Conversely, EDNRB activation in these cultures decreases expression of RA receptors β and γ mRNA and affects the expression of the RA synthetic and degradative enzymes. These gene expression changes are associated with reduced glial proliferation and a lower percentage of glia in the culture. Over 14 days in the absence of EDNRB signaling, RA induces the formation of a heterocellular plexus replete with ganglia, glia and myofibroblasts.
A complex endothelin-RA interaction exists that coordinately regulates the development of rat ENS precursors in vitro. These results suggest that environmental RA may modulate the expression of aganglionosis in individuals with endothelin mutations.
PMCID: PMC3767828  PMID: 24040226
18.  Transcriptional profiling at whole population and single cell levels reveals somatosensory neuron molecular diversity 
eLife  null;3:e04660.
The somatosensory nervous system is critical for the organism's ability to respond to mechanical, thermal, and nociceptive stimuli. Somatosensory neurons are functionally and anatomically diverse but their molecular profiles are not well-defined. Here, we used transcriptional profiling to analyze the detailed molecular signatures of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons. We used two mouse reporter lines and surface IB4 labeling to purify three major non-overlapping classes of neurons: 1) IB4+SNS-Cre/TdTomato+, 2) IB4−SNS-Cre/TdTomato+, and 3) Parv-Cre/TdTomato+ cells, encompassing the majority of nociceptive, pruriceptive, and proprioceptive neurons. These neurons displayed distinct expression patterns of ion channels, transcription factors, and GPCRs. Highly parallel qRT-PCR analysis of 334 single neurons selected by membership of the three populations demonstrated further diversity, with unbiased clustering analysis identifying six distinct subgroups. These data significantly increase our knowledge of the molecular identities of known DRG populations and uncover potentially novel subsets, revealing the complexity and diversity of those neurons underlying somatosensation.
eLife digest
In the nervous system, a network of specialized neurons—known as the somatosensory system—carries information about sensations including touch, muscle position, temperature and pain. Distinct sets of somatosensory neurons are thought to carry information about the different types of sensations. In young animals, the precise switching on, or ‘expression’, of genes controls the formation of the network of neurons. However, it is not known exactly which genes are expressed in what types of neurons, where, or when.
Here, Chiu et al. used a technique called flow cytometry using different fluorescent markers to isolate a group of cells called Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) neurons in mice. These neurons have long thread-like fibers that extend from the spinal cord to the skin, muscles and joints all over the body. These fibers carry sensory information to the spinal cord, where it can be relayed to the brain and processed. The experiments compared three distinct types of DRG neuron and found that they differed in their ability to send information to other cells.
Chiu et al. analyzed the expression of all the genes in the three types of DRG neurons. Each type of neuron had distinct groups of genes that were being expressed. Also, several genes that are known to be important for sensation were expressed at different levels in the different types of cells. Next, large numbers of single cells were analyzed to find out the finer details about the three types of neuron. These findings made it possible to further divide the DRG neurons into six distinct subsets that matched previously known groups of somatosensory neurons, and also identified new ones.
Chiu et al.'s findings reveal the complexity and diversity of the neurons involved in carrying information about sensations towards the brain. This is an important step in classifying the nervous system, and uncovers many genes previously not linked to sensation. The next challenges lie in understanding how the expression of these genes in each type of neuron relates to their unique roles.
PMCID: PMC4383053  PMID: 25525749
transcriptome; peripheral nervous system; somatosensation; DRG; nociception; proprioception; mouse
19.  Intrathecal injection of fluorocitric acid inhibits the activation of glial cells causing reduced mirror pain in rats 
BMC Anesthesiology  2014;14:119.
Growing evidence has shown that unilateral nerve injury results in pain hypersensitivity in the ipsilateral and contralateral sides respective to the injury site. This phenomenon is known as mirror image pain (MIP). Glial cells have been indicated in the mechanism of MIP; however, it is not clear how glial cells are involved in MIP.
To observe phenomenon MIP and the following mechanism, 20 adult male Sprague–Dawley rats (weighing 180–220 g) were separated into two groups: Sham Group (n = 10) and left L5 spinal nerve ligated and sectioned (SNL) group (n = 10). Thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical hypersensitivity were measured for both groups to determine if the SNL model had Mirror image of Pain (MIP). Nav1.7 protein expression in DRG was analyzed using immunohistochemistry and western-blotting. And then to observe the effect of fluorocitrate on MIP, 15 rats were separated into three Groups: Sham Group (n = 5); SNL + FC group: intrathecal injection of Fluorocitric acid(FC) 1 nmol/10 μL (n = 5); SNL + NS group: intrathecal injection of 0.9% Normal Saline (n = 5). Behavior testing, immunocytochemistry, and western-blotting using dorsal root ganglion (DRG) from both sides were then conducted.
The results showed pain hypersensitivity in both hind-paws of the SNL animals, Mechanical tests showed the paw withdrawal threshold dropped from 13.30 ± 1.204 g to 2.57 ± 1.963 g at 14 d as will as the ipsilateral paw thermal withdrawal threshold dropped from 16.5 ± 2.236 s to 4.38 ± 2.544 s at 14d. Mechanical tests showed the contralateral paw withdrawal threshold dropped from 14.01 ± 1.412 to 4.2 ± 1.789 g at 7d will the thermal withdrawal threshold dropped from 16.8 ± 2.176 s to 7.6 ± 1.517 s at 7d. Nav1.7 expression increased and glial cells actived in bilateral side DRG after SNL compared with sham group. After intrathecal injection of fluorocitrate, the glial cell in bilatral DRG were inhibited and the pain behavior were reversed in both hindpaws too.
Fluorocitrate can inhibit the activation of glial cells in spinal cord and DRG, and reduce MIP.
PMCID: PMC4297429  PMID: 25598703
Mirror-image pain; Satellite glial cells; DL-fluorocitric acid; Nav1.7 protein
20.  TRPV1 and TRPA1 antagonists prevent the transition of acute to chronic inflammation and pain in chronic pancreatitis 
Visceral afferents expressing transient receptor potential channels TRPV1 and TRPA1 are thought to be required for neurogenic inflammation and development of inflammatory hyperalgesia. In a mouse model of chronic pancreatitis (CP) produced by repeated episodes (twice/wk) of caerulein-induced acute pancreatitis (AP), we studied involvement of these TRP channels in pancreatic inflammation and pain-related behaviors. Antagonists of the two TRP channels were administered at different times to block the neurogenic component of AP. Six bouts of AP (over 3 wks) increased pancreatic inflammation and pain-related behaviors, produced fibrosis, sprouting of pancreatic nerve fibers and increased TRPA1 and TRPV1 gene transcripts and a nociceptive marker, pERK, in pancreas afferent somata. Treatment with TRP antagonists, when initiated prior to week 3, decreased pancreatic inflammation and pain-related behaviors and also blocked development of histopathological changes in the pancreas and upregulation of TRPV1, TRPA1 and pERK in pancreatic afferents. Continued treatment with TRP antagonists blocked development of CP and pain behaviors even when mice were challenged with seven more weeks of twice/wk caerulein. When started after week 3, however, treatment with TRP antagonists was ineffective in blocking the transition from AP to CP and the emergence of pain behaviors. These results suggest 1) an important role for neurogenic inflammation in pancreatitis and pain-related behaviors, 2) there is transition from AP to CP, after which TRP channel antagonism is ineffective, and thus 3) that early intervention with TRP channel antagonists may effectively attenuate the transition to and development of CP.
PMCID: PMC3690366  PMID: 23536075
21.  Inflammation and nerve injury induce expression of pancreatitis-associated protein-II in primary sensory neurons 
Molecular Pain  2010;6:23.
Pancreatitis-associated protein (PAP)-I and -II, lectin-related secretory proteins, are members of the regenerating gene (Reg) family. Although expression of PAP-I was found in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons following peripheral nerve injury and cystitis, whether PAP-II could be expressed in DRG neurons in chronic pain models remains unclear. The present study shows an inflammation- and nerve injury-triggered expression of PAP-II in rat DRG neurons. In situ hybridization showed that only a few DRG neurons normally contained PAP-I and -II mRNAs. After peripheral inflammation, PAP-I and -II mRNAs were present in over half of small DRG neurons. Such an elevated expression of PAP-I and -II reached the peak level on the second day. Immunostaining showed that the expression of PAP-II was mostly increased in the isolectin B4-positive subset of small DRG neurons after inflammation. Furthermore, the expression of PAP-II was also induced in DRG neurons after peripheral nerve injury. Interestingly, PAP-II expression was shifted from small neurons on day 2 to large DRG neurons that expressed neuropeptide Y during the later post-injury days. These results suggest that PAP-II may play potential roles in the modulation of spinal sensory pathways in pathological pain states.
PMCID: PMC2873504  PMID: 20420691
22.  Substance P and Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide Mediate Pain in Chronic Pancreatitis and Their Expression is Driven by Nerve Growth Factor 
JOP : Journal of the pancreas  2011;12(4):389-394.
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P and nerve growth factor play an important role in inflammatory pain in various somatic pain models but their role in chronic pancreatitis has not been well studied.
The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of intrathecal administration of calcitonin gene-related peptide antagonist and substance P receptor antagonist on pain behavior in a rat model of chronic pancreatitis and to determine whether nerve growth factor drives the up-regulation of expression of these neuropeptides in sensory neurons.
Pancreatitis was induced by retrograde infusion of trinitobenzene sulfonic acid into the pancreatic duct of adult rats. Three weeks post infusion continuous intrathecal infusion of the calcitonin gene-related peptide antagonist alpha CGRP8-37 or neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist CP-96345 or its inactive enantiomer CP-96344 was administered for seven days. The effects of treatment on pancreatic hyperalgesia were assessed by sensitivity of the abdominal wall to von Frey filament probing as well as by the nocifensive response to electrical stimulation of the pancreas. In a separate experiment chronic pancreatitis was induced and pancreas specific dorsal root ganglion neurons labeled with DiI were assessed for calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P immunoreactivity.
Intrathecal infusion of calcitonin gene-related peptide and neurokinin-1 receptor antagonists significantly attenuated behavioral pain responses in rats with chronic pancreatitis. Further, treatment of chronic pancreatitis rats with nerve growth factor antibody significantly reduced pancreas specific neurons expressing calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P in thoracic dorsal root ganglion.
Calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P mediate pancreatic hyperalgesia in chronic pancreatitis and nerve growth factor in turn sustains the up-regulation of these neuropeptides in pancreatic sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC4090212  PMID: 21737902
Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide; Nerve Growth Factor; Pancreatitis; Chronic; Rats; Substance P
23.  Effect of Mas-related gene (Mrg) receptors on hyperalgesia in rats with CFA-induced inflammation via direct and indirect mechanisms 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;170(5):1027-1040.
Background and Purpose
Mas oncogene-related gene (Mrg) receptors are exclusively distributed in small-sized neurons in trigeminal and dorsal root ganglia (DRG). We investigated the effects of MrgC receptor activation on inflammatory hyperalgesia and its mechanisms.
Experimental Approach
A selective MrgC receptor agonist, bovine adrenal medulla peptide 8-22 (BAM8-22) or melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) or the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) antagonist CTAP was administered intrathecally (i.t.) in rats injected with complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) in one hindpaw. Thermal and mechanical nociceptive responses were assessed. Neurochemicals were measured by immunocytochemistry, Western blot, ELISA and RT-PCR.
Key Results
CFA injection increased mRNA for MrgC receptors in lumbar DRG. BAM8-22 or MSH, given i.t., generated instant short and delayed long-lasting attenuations of CFA-induced thermal hyperalgesia, but not mechanical allodynia. These effects were associated with decreased up-regulation of neuronal NOS (nNOS), CGRP and c-Fos expression in the spinal dorsal horn and/or DRG. However, i.t. administration of CTAP blocked the induction by BAM8-22 of delayed anti-hyperalgesia and inhibition of nNOS and CGRP expression in DRG. BAM8-22 also increased mRNA for MORs and pro-opiomelanocortin, along with β-endorphin content in the lumbar spinal cord and/or DRG. MrgC receptors and nNOS were co-localized in DRG neurons.
Conclusions and Implications
Activation of MrgC receptors suppressed up-regulation of pronociceptive mediators and consequently inhibited inflammatory pain, because of the activation of up-regulated MrgC receptors and subsequent endogenous activity at MORs. The uniquely distributed MrgC receptors could be a novel target for relieving inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC3949651  PMID: 23909597
dorsal root ganglia (DRG); inflammatory hyperalgesia; Mas-related gene (Mrg) receptors; μ-opioidergic activity; spinal dorsal horn
24.  Fibroblast-like synovial cells from normal and inflamed knee joints differently affect the expression of pain-related receptors in sensory neurones: a co-culture study 
Innervation of the joint with thinly myelinated and unmyelinated sensory nerve fibres is crucial for the occurrence of joint pain. During inflammation in the joint, sensory fibres show changes in the expression of receptors that are important for the activation and sensitization of the neurones and the generation of joint pain. We recently reported that both neurokinin 1 receptors and bradykinin 2 receptors are upregulated in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurones (the cell bodies of sensory fibres) in the course of acute and chronic antigen-induced arthritis in the rat. In this study, we begin to address mechanisms of the interaction between fibroblast-like synovial (FLS) cells and sensory neurones by establishing a co-culture system of FLS cells and DRG neurones. The proportion of DRG neurones expressing neurokinin 1 receptor-like immunoreactivity was not altered in the co-culture with FLS cells from normal joints but was significantly upregulated using FLS cells from knee joints of rats with antigen-induced arthritis. The proportion of DRG neurones expressing bradykinin 2 receptors was slightly upregulated in the presence of FLS cells from normal joints but upregulation was more pronounced in DRG neurones co-cultured with FLS cells from acutely inflamed joints. In addition, the expression of the transient receptor potential V1 (TRPV1) receptor, which is involved in inflammation-evoked thermal hyperalgesia, was mainly upregulated by co-culturing DRG neurones with FLS cells from chronically inflamed joints. Upregulation of neurokinin 1 receptors but not of bradykinin 2 and TRPV1 receptors was also observed when only the supernatant of FLS cells from acutely inflamed joint was added to DRG neurones. Addition of indomethacin to co-cultures inhibited the effect of FLS cells from acutely inflamed joints on neurokinin 1 receptor expression, suggesting an important role for prostaglandins. Collectively, these data show that FLS cells are able to induce an upregulation of pain-related receptors in sensory neurones and, thus, they could contribute to the generation of joint pain. Importantly, the influence of FLS cells on DRG neurones is dependent on their state of activity, and soluble factors as well as direct cellular contacts are crucial for their interaction with neurones.
PMCID: PMC1860064  PMID: 17254343
25.  Correlational analysis for identifying genes whose regulation contributes to chronic neuropathic pain 
Molecular Pain  2009;5:7.
Nerve injury-triggered hyperexcitability in primary sensory neurons is considered a major source of chronic neuropathic pain. The hyperexcitability, in turn, is thought to be related to transcriptional switching in afferent cell somata. Analysis using expression microarrays has revealed that many genes are regulated in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) following axotomy. But which contribute to pain phenotype versus other nerve injury-evoked processes such as nerve regeneration? Using the L5 spinal nerve ligation model of neuropathy we examined differential changes in gene expression in the L5 (and L4) DRGs in five mouse strains with contrasting susceptibility to neuropathic pain. We sought genes for which the degree of regulation correlates with strain-specific pain phenotype.
In an initial experiment six candidate genes previously identified as important in pain physiology were selected for in situ hybridization to DRG sections. Among these, regulation of the Na+ channel α subunit Scn11a correlated with levels of spontaneous pain behavior, and regulation of the cool receptor Trpm8 correlated with heat hypersensibility. In a larger scale experiment, mRNA extracted from individual mouse DRGs was processed on Affymetrix whole-genome expression microarrays. Overall, 2552 ± 477 transcripts were significantly regulated in the axotomized L5DRG 3 days postoperatively. However, in only a small fraction of these was the degree of regulation correlated with pain behavior across strains. Very few genes in the "uninjured" L4DRG showed altered expression (24 ± 28).
Correlational analysis based on in situ hybridization provided evidence that differential regulation of Scn11a and Trpm8 contributes to across-strain variability in pain phenotype. This does not, of course, constitute evidence that the others are unrelated to pain. Correlational analysis based on microarray data yielded a larger "look-up table" of genes whose regulation likely contributes to pain variability. While this list is enriched in genes of potential importance for pain physiology, and is relatively free of the bias inherent in the candidate gene approach, additional steps are required to clarify which transcripts on the list are in fact of functional importance.
PMCID: PMC2649910  PMID: 19228393

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