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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.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Cannabinoids Ameliorate Pain and Reduce Disease Pathology in Cerulein-Induced Acute Pancreatitis 
Gastroenterology  2007;132(5):1968-1978.
Background & Aims
The functional involvement of the endocannabinoid system in modulation of pancreatic inflammation, such as acute pancreatitis, has not been studied to date. Moreover, the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in pancreatitis has not been addressed.
We quantified endocannabinoid levels and expression of cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) in pancreas biopsies from patients and mice with acute pancreatitis. Functional studies were performed in mice using pharmacological interventions. Histological examination, serological, and molecular analyses (lipase, myeloperoxidase, cytokines, and chemokines) were performed to assess disease pathology and inflammation. Pain resulting from pancreatitis was studied as abdominal hypersensitivity to punctate von Frey stimuli. Behavioral analyses in the open-field, light-dark, and catalepsy tests were performed to judge cannabinoid-induced central side effects.
Patients with acute pancreatitis showed an up-regulation of cannabinoid receptors and elevated levels of endocannabinoids in the pancreas. HU210, a synthetic agonist at CB1 and CB2, abolished abdominal pain associated with pancreatitis and also reduced inflammation and decreased tissue pathology in mice without producing central, adverse effects. Antagonists at CB1- and CB2-receptors were effective in reversing HU210-induced antinociception, whereas a combination of CB1- and CB2-antagonists was required to block the anti-inflammatory effects of HU210 in pancreatitis.
In humans, acute pancreatitis is associated with up-regulation of ligands as well as receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the pancreas. Furthermore, our results suggest a therapeutic potential for cannabinoids in abolishing pain associated with acute pancreatitis and in partially reducing inflammation and disease pathology in the absence of adverse side effects.
PMCID: PMC2268094  PMID: 17484889
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.  Potent anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activity of the endothelin receptor antagonist bosentan in monoarthritic mice 
Endothelins are involved in tissue inflammation, pain, edema and cell migration. Our genome-wide microarray analysis revealed that endothelin-1 (ET-1) and endothelin-2 (ET-2) showed a marked up-regulation in dorsal root ganglia during the acute phase of arthritis. We therefore examined the effects of endothelin receptor antagonists on the development of arthritis and inflammatory pain in monoarthritic mice.
Gene expression was examined in lumbar dorsal root ganglia two days after induction of antigen-induced arthritis (AIA) using mRNA microarray analysis. Effects of drug treatment were determined by repeated assessment of joint swelling, pain-related behavior, and histopathological manifestations during AIA.
Daily oral administration of the mixed ETA and ETB endothelin receptor antagonist bosentan significantly attenuated knee joint swelling and inflammation to an extent that was comparable to dexamethasone. In addition, bosentan reduced inflammatory mechanical hyperalgesia. Chronic bosentan administration also inhibited joint swelling and protected against inflammation and joint destruction during AIA flare-up reactions. In contrast, the ETA-selective antagonist ambrisentan failed to promote any detectable antiinflammatory or antinociceptive activity.
Thus, the present study reveals a pivotal role for the endothelin system in the development of arthritis and arthritic pain. We show that endothelin receptor antagonists can effectively control inflammation, pain and joint destruction during the course of arthritis. Our findings suggest that the antiinflammatory and antinociceptive effects of bosentan are predominantly mediated via the ETB receptor.
PMCID: PMC3218912  PMID: 21689431
15.  Anoctamin 1 contributes to inflammatory and nerve-injury induced hypersensitivity 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:5.
Various pathological conditions such as inflammation or injury can evoke pain hypersensitivity. That represents the response to innocuous stimuli or exaggerated response to noxious stimuli. The molecular mechanism based on the pain hypersensitivity is associated with changes in many of ion channels in dorsal-root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Anoctamin 1 (ANO1/TMEM16A), a Ca2+ activated chloride channel is highly visible in small DRG neurons and responds to heat. Mice with an abolished function of ANO1 in DRG neurons demonstrated attenuated pain-like behaviors when exposed to noxious heat, suggesting a role in acute thermal nociception. In this study, we further examined the function of ANO1 in mediating inflammation- or injury-induced hyperalgesia or allodynia.
Using Advillin/Ano1 fl/fl (Adv/Ano1 fl/fl ) mice that have a functional ablation of Ano1 mainly in DRG neurons, we were able to determine its role in mediating thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia induced by inflammation or nerve injury. The thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia induced by carrageenan injection and spared-nerve injury were significantly reduced in Adv/Ano1 fl/fl mice. In addition, flinching or licking behavior after bradykinin or formalin injection was also significantly reduced in Adv/Ano1 fl/fl mice. Since pathological conditions augment nociceptive behaviors, we expected ANO1′s contribution to the excitability of DRG neurons. Indeed, the application of inflammatory mediators reduced the threshold for action potential (rheobase) or time for induction of the first action potential in DRG neurons isolated from control (Ano1 fl/fl ) mice. These parameters for neuronal excitability induced by inflammatory mediators were not changed in Adv/Ano1 fl/fl mice, suggesting an active contribution of ANO1 in augmenting the neuronal excitability.
In addition to ANO1's role in mediating acute thermal pain as a heat sensor, ANO1 is also capable of augmenting the excitability of DRG neurons under inflammatory or neuropathic conditions and thereby aggravates inflammation- or tissue injury-induced pathological pain.
PMCID: PMC3929161  PMID: 24450308
ANO1; Neuropathic pain; Inflammatory pain; DRG neuron; Hyperalgesia; Rheobase
16.  Effect of endothelin and endothelin receptor blockade on capillary permeability in experimental pancreatitis 
Gut  2000;46(3):390-394.
BACKGROUND—Capillary leakage with fluid loss into the third space contributes to many of the early systemic complications in severe acute pancreatitis. There has been increasing interest in endothelin as one of the factors affecting capillary permeability.
AIM—To elucidate further the role of endothelin in the development of capillary leakage in acute pancreatitis by investigating the effect of exogenous endothelin administration and endothelin receptor blockade in sham operated animals and two models of acute pancreatitis.
METHODS—Determination of capillary permeability in the pancreas and colonic mucosa by quantifying extravasation of fluorescein labelled dextran using a novel computer assisted video image analysis system.
RESULTS—Pancreatic and colonic capillary permeability increased stepwise from mild to severe acute pancreatitis. Endothelin increased pancreatic and colonic capillary permeability in healthy animals and animals with mild acute pancreatitis but had no additional adverse effect in severe acute pancreatitis. Endothelin receptor blockade decreased pancreatic capillary permeability in sham operated rats but had no effect on the colon. In mild and severe acute pancreatitis, endothelin receptor blockade stabilised increased capillary permeability in both the pancreas and colon.
CONCLUSIONS—Endothelin plays an important role in mediating capillary permeability in the pancreas. In severe pancreatitis, it increases capillary permeability even outside the pancreas, thereby contributing to capillary leakage. Endothelin receptor blockade significantly reduces capillary permeability in acute pancreatitis both in and outside the pancreas, suggesting a therapeutic approach to counteract capillary leakage in severe acute pancreatitis.

Keywords: pancreatitis; endothelin; endothelin receptor antagonist; microcirculation; capillary permeability; fluid sequestration
PMCID: PMC1727839  PMID: 10673302
17.  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
18.  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
19.  Dual Roles for Endothelin-B Receptors in Modulating Adjuvant-Induced Inflammatory Hyperalgesia in Rats 
The open pain journal  2009;2:30-40.
Injection of endothelin-1 (ET-1) into the plantar rat hindpaw causes acute pain at high concentrations and tactile sensitization at low concentrations. The pro-nociceptive actions are driven through ETA receptors for both levels of [ET-1], but the ETB receptors are only pro-nociceptive for allodynia from low [ET-1] and anti-nociceptive for pain from high [ET-1]. The goal of the present work was to discriminate the roles of the ET receptors in the acute hyperalgesia from inflammation by complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA, 20 mg/paw) into the rat hindpaw. Selective antagonists were injected l0 min before and then together with CFA. An ETA receptor antagonist, BQ-123, reduced CFA-induced thermal hyperalgesia (by up to 50%), as did an ETB receptor antagonist, BQ-788 (by up to 66%). BQ-123 and BQ-788 also delayed the onset (by 1.5 – 2 h) but insignificantly reduced the maximum degree of CFA-induced allodynia (~10%). Surprisingly, an ETB receptor agonist, IRL-1620, also reduced maximum thermal hyperalgesia induced by CFA, suppressed peak allodynia and delayed its occurrence by ~ 3 h. The latter actions of IRL-1620 were reversed by co-administration of BQ-788, naloxone hydrochloride and the peripherally restricted opiate receptor antagonist naloxone methiodide, and by antiserum against β-endorphin. These findings demonstrate an important role for endogenous ET-1 in acute inflammatory pain and a dual action of ETB receptors, including a pro-algesic action along with the important activation of a local analgesic pathway, implying that at least two different ETB receptors contribute to modulation of inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC2886510  PMID: 20559459
Inflammatory hyperalgesia; endothelin-1; pro-nociception; anti-nociception; allodynia; pain
20.  Expression of leukotriene receptors in the rat dorsal root ganglion and the effects on pain behaviors 
Molecular Pain  2010;6:57.
Leukotrienes (LTs) belong to the large family of lipid mediators implicated in various inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Four distinct types (BLT1, BLT2, CysLT1 and CysLT2) of G-protein-coupled receptors for LTs have been identified. Several studies have reported that LTs are involved in inflammatory pain, but the mechanism and the expression of LT receptors in the nociceptive pathway are unknown.
We investigated the precise expression of these four types of LT receptors in the adult rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) using reverse transcription-polymerase reaction (RT-PCR) and radioisotope-labeled in situ hybridization histochemistry (ISHH). We detected mRNAs for BLT1 and CysLT2 in the DRG, but not for BLT2 and CysLT1. CysLT2 mRNA was preferentially expressed by small sized DRG neurons (about 36% of total neurons), whereas BLT1 mRNA was expressed by non-neuronal cells. Double labeling analysis of CysLT2 with NF-200, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), isolectin B4 (IB4), transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily 1 (TRPV1) and P2X3 receptor revealed that many CysLT2-labeled neurons were localized with unmyelinated and non-peptidergic neurons, and interestingly, CysLT2 mRNA heavily co-localized with TRPV1 and P2X3-positive neurons. Intraplantar injection of LTC4, a CysLT2 receptor agonist, itself did not induce the thermal hyperalgesia, spontaneous pain behaviors or swelling of hind paw. However, pretreatment of LTC4 remarkably enhanced the painful behaviors produced by alpha, beta-methylene adenosine 5'-triphosphate (αβ-me-ATP), a P2X3 receptor agonist.
These data suggests that CysLT2 expressed in DRG neurons may play a role as a modulator of P2X3, and contribute to a potentiation of the neuronal activity following peripheral inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2949724  PMID: 20846451
21.  Rapid Pain Modulation with Nuclear Receptor Ligands 
Brain research reviews  2008;60(1):114-124.
We discuss and present new data regarding the physiological and molecular mechanisms of nuclear receptor activation in pain control, with a particular emphasis on non-genomic effects of ligands at peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR), GPR30, and classical estrogen receptors. PPARα agonists rapidly reduce both acute and chronic pain in a number of pain assays. These effects precede transcriptional anti-inflammatory actions, and are mediated in part by IKca and BKca channels on DRG neurons. In contrast to the peripheral site of action of PPARα ligands, the dorsal horn supports the expression of PPARγ. Intrathecal administration of PPARγ ligands rapidly (≤5 minutes) attenuated mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity associated with nerve injury in a dose-dependent manner that could be blocked with PPARγ antagonists. By contrast, a PPARγ antagonist itself rapidly increased the mechanical allodynia associated with nerve injury. These data suggest that ligand-dependent, non-genomic activation of spinal PPARγ decreases behavioral signs of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. We also report that the GPR30 is expressed on cultured sensory neurons, that activation of the receptor elicits signaling to increase calcium accumulation and PKCε translocation, and that this signaling may contribute to increased neuronal sensitivity as treatment with the GPR30 agonist induces hyperalgesia. Finally, application of the membrane-impermeable 17ß-E2-BSA rapidly (within 15 min) enhanced BK-stimulated inositol phosphate (IP) accumulation and PGE2-mediated cAMP accumulation in trigeminal ganglion cultures. We conclude that nuclear receptor ligands may operate through rapid, non-genomic mechanisms to modulate inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3695814  PMID: 19162071
22.  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
23.  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
24.  Acid Activation of Trpv1 Leads to an Up-Regulation of Calcitonin Gene-related Peptide Expression in Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons via the CaMK-CREB Cascade: A Potential Mechanism of Inflammatory Pain 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(15):2568-2577.
Increased CGRP expression in sensory neurons is associated with inflammatory pain. We examined the molecular basis of CGRP expression and found that acid-sensing nociceptor Trpv1 is activated under inflammatory acidic environments and up-regulates the CGRP expression through CaMK-CREB cascade.
Increased production of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in sensory neurons is implicated in inflammatory pain. The inflammatory site is acidic due to proton release from infiltrating inflammatory cells. Acid activation of peripheral nociceptors relays pain signals to the CNS. Here, we examined whether acid activated the transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (Trpv1), a widely recognized acid-sensing nociceptor and subsequently increased CGRP expression. Chemically induced inflammation was associated with thermal hyperalgesia and increased CGRP expression in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) in rats. In organ cultures of DRG, acid (pH 5.5) elevated CGRP expression and the selective Trpv1 antagonist 5′-Iodoresiniferatoxin decreased it. Trpv1-deficient DRG showed reduced CGRP increase by acid. Of note, many of CGRP/Trpv1-positive DRG neurons exhibited the phosphorylation of cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), a nociceptive transcription factor. Knockdown of CREB by small interfering RNA or a dominant-negative form of CREB diminished acid-elevated CGRP expression. Acid elevated the transcriptional activity of CREB, which in turn stimulated CGRP gene promoter activity. These effects were inhibited by a Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK) inhibitor KN-93. In conclusion, our results suggest that inflammatory acidic environments activate Trpv1, leading to an up-regulation of CGRP expression via CaMK-CREB cascade, a series of events that may be associated with inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC2912344  PMID: 20534813
25.  CXCR4 chemokine receptor signaling mediates pain in diabetic neuropathy 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:42.
Painful Diabetic Neuropathy (PDN) is a debilitating syndrome present in a quarter of diabetic patients that has a substantial impact on their quality of life. Despite this significant prevalence and impact, current therapies for PDN are only partially effective. Moreover, the cellular mechanisms underlying PDN are not well understood. Neuropathic pain is caused by a variety of phenomena including sustained excitability in sensory neurons that reduces the pain threshold so that pain is produced in the absence of appropriate stimuli. Chemokine signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain in a variety of animal models. We therefore tested the hypothesis that chemokine signaling mediates DRG neuronal hyperexcitability in association with PDN.
We demonstrated that intraperitoneal administration of the specific CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100 reversed PDN in two animal models of type II diabetes. Furthermore DRG sensory neurons acutely isolated from diabetic mice displayed enhanced SDF-1 induced calcium responses. Moreover, we demonstrated that CXCR4 receptors are expressed by a subset of DRG sensory neurons. Finally, we observed numerous CXCR4 expressing inflammatory cells infiltrating into the DRG of diabetic mice.
These data suggest that CXCR4/SDF-1 signaling mediates enhanced calcium influx and excitability in DRG neurons responsible for PDN. Simultaneously, CXCR4/SDF-1 signaling may coordinate inflammation in diabetic DRG that could contribute to the development of pain in diabetes. Therefore, targeting CXCR4 chemokine receptors may represent a novel intervention for treating PDN.
PMCID: PMC4078021  PMID: 24961298
Chemokine; Neuropathic pain; Painful diabetic neuropathy; DRG neurons

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