Background: VGF is a neuropeptide involved in chronic pain.
Results: VGF-derived peptide TLQP-21 activates macrophages. We identified gC1qR as a receptor for TLQP-21.
Conclusion: TLQP-21 and gC1qR are involved in chronic pain pathways.
Significance: TLQP-21 and gC1qR may be drug targets for chronic pain treatment.
VGF (nonacronymic) is a neuropeptide precursor that plays multiple roles in regulation of energy balance, reproduction, hippocampal synaptic plasticity, and pain. Data from a number of pain models showed significant up-regulation of VGF in sensory neurons. TLQP-21, one of the VGF-derived neuropeptides, has been shown to induce a hyperalgesic response when injected subcutaneously into the hind paw of mice. However, the precise role of VGF-derived neuropeptides in neuropathic pain and the molecular identity of the receptor for VGF-derived peptides are yet to be investigated. Here we identified gC1qR, the globular heads of the C1q receptor, as the receptor for TLQP-21 using chemical cross-linking combined with mass spectrometry analysis. TLQP-21 caused an increase in intracellular Ca2+ levels in rat macrophages and microglia. Inoculation of TLQP-21-stimulated macrophages into rat hind paw caused mechanical hypersensitivity. The increase in intracellular Ca2+ levels in macrophages was attenuated by either siRNA or neutralizing antibodies against gC1qR. Furthermore, application of the gC1qR-neutralizing antibody to rats with partial sciatic nerve ligation resulted in a delayed onset of nerve injury-associated mechanical hypersensitivity. These results indicate that gC1qR is the receptor for TLQP-21 and plays an important role in chronic pain through activation of macrophages. Because direct association between TLQP-21 and gC1qR is required for activation of macrophages and causes hypersensitivity, disrupting this interaction may be a useful new approach to develop novel analgesics.