Tissue injury during a critical period of early life can facilitate spontaneous glutamatergic transmission within developing pain circuits in the superficial dorsal horn (SDH) of the spinal cord. However, the extent to which neonatal tissue damage strengthens nociceptive synaptic input to specific subpopulations of SDH neurons, as well as the mechanisms underlying this distinct form of synaptic plasticity, remains unclear. Here we use in vitro whole-cell patch clamp recordings from rodent spinal cord slices to demonstrate that neonatal surgical injury selectively potentiates high-threshold primary afferent input to immature lamina II neurons. In addition, the increase in the frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) after hindpaw incision was prevented by neonatal capsaicin treatment, suggesting that early tissue injury enhances glutamate release from nociceptive synapses. This occurs in a widespread manner within the developing SDH, as incision elevated mEPSC frequency in both GABAergic and presumed glutamatergic lamina II neurons of Gad-GFP transgenic mice. The administration of exogenous nerve growth factor (NGF) into the rat hindpaw mimicked the effects of early tissue damage on excitatory synaptic function, while blocking trkA receptors in vivo abolished the changes in both spontaneous and primary afferent-evoked glutamatergic transmission following incision. These findings illustrate that neonatal tissue damage can alter the gain of developing pain pathways by activating NGF-dependent signaling cascades which modify synaptic efficacy at the first site of nociceptive processing within the CNS.
Spontaneous activity driven by “pacemaker” neurons, defined by their intrinsic ability to generate rhythmic burst-firing, contributes to the development of sensory circuits in many regions of the immature CNS. However, it is unknown if pacemaker-like neurons are present within central pain pathways in the neonate. Here we provide evidence that a subpopulation of glutamatergic interneurons within lamina I of the rat spinal cord exhibits oscillatory burst-firing during early life, which occurs independently of fast synaptic transmission. Pacemaker neurons were distinguished by a higher ratio of persistent, voltage-gated Na+ conductance to leak membrane conductance (gNa,P / gleak) compared to adjacent, non-bursting lamina I neurons. The activation of high-threshold (N-type and L-type) voltage-gated Ca2+ channels also facilitated rhythmic burst-firing by triggering intracellular Ca2+ signaling. Bursting neurons received direct projections from high-threshold sensory afferents, but transmitted nociceptive signals with poor fidelity while in the bursting mode. The observation that pacemaker neurons send axon collaterals throughout the neonatal spinal cord raises the possibility that intrinsic burst-firing could provide an endogenous drive to the developing sensorimotor networks which mediate spinal pain reflexes.
Superficial dorsal horn; development; patch clamp; burst-firing; nociceptive
Injuries to the spinal cord often result in severe functional deficits that, in case of incomplete injuries, can be partially compensated by axonal remodeling. The corticospinal tract (CST), for example, responds to a thoracic transection with the formation of an intraspinal detour circuit. The key step for the formation of the detour circuit is the sprouting of new CST collaterals in the cervical spinal cord that contact local interneurons. How individual collaterals are formed and refined over time is incompletely understood.
We traced the hindlimb corticospinal tract at different timepoints after lesion to show that cervical collateral formation is initiated in the first 10 days. These collaterals can then persist for at least 24 weeks. Interestingly, both major and minor CST components contribute to the formation of persistent CST collaterals. We then developed an approach to label single CST collaterals based on viral gene transfer of the Cre recombinase to a small number of cortical projection neurons in Thy1-STP-YFP or Thy1-Brainbow mice. Reconstruction and analysis of single collaterals for up to 12 weeks after lesion revealed that CST remodeling evolves in 3 phases. Collateral growth is initiated in the first 10 days after lesion. Between 10 days and 3–4 weeks after lesion elongated and highly branched collaterals form in the gray matter, the complexity of which depends on the CST component they originate from. Finally, between 3–4 weeks and 12 weeks after lesion the size of CST collaterals remains largely unchanged, while the pattern of their contacts onto interneurons matures.
This study provides a comprehensive anatomical analysis of CST reorganization after injury and reveals that CST remodeling occurs in distinct phases. Our results and techniques should facilitate future efforts to unravel the mechanisms that govern CST remodeling and to promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury.
Spontaneous activity is an essential attribute of neuronal networks and plays a critical role in their development and maintenance. Upon blockade of activity with tetrodotoxin (TTX), neurons degenerate slowly and die in a manner resembling neurodegenerative diseases-induced neuronal cell death. The molecular cascade leading to this type of slow cell death is not entirely clear. Primary post-natal cortical neurons were exposed to TTX for up to two weeks, followed by molecular, biochemical and immunefluorescence analysis. The expression of the neuronal marker, neuron specific enolase (NSE), was down-regulated, as expected, but surprisingly, there was a concomitant and striking elevation in expression of tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA). Immunofluorescence analysis indicated that tPA was highly elevated inside affected neurons. Transfection of an endogenous tPA inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), protected the TTX-exposed neurons from dying. These results indicate that tPA is a pivotal player in slowly progressing activity deprivation-induced neurodegeneration.
The transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) channel is a well recognized polymodal signal detector that is activated by painful stimuli such as capsaicin. Here, we show that TRPV1 is expressed in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA). Despite the fact that the central amygdala displays the highest neuronal density, the highest density of TRPV1 labeled neurons was found within the nuclei of the basolateral complex of the amygdala. Capsaicin specifically changed the magnitude of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the LA in brain slices of mice depending on the anesthetic (ether, isoflurane) used before euthanasia. After ether anesthesia, capsaicin had a suppressive effect on LA-LTP both in patch clamp and in extracellular recordings. The capsaicin-induced reduction of LTP was completely blocked by the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor L-NAME and was absent in neuronal NOS as well as in TRPV1 deficient mice. The specific antagonist of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), AM 251, was also able to reduce the inhibitory effect of capsaicin on LA-LTP, suggesting that stimulation of TRPV1 provokes the generation of anandamide in the brain which seems to inhibit NO synthesis. After isoflurane anesthesia before euthanasia capsaicin caused a TRPV1-mediated increase in the magnitude of LA-LTP. Therefore, our results also indicate that the appropriate choice of the anesthetics used is an important consideration when brain plasticity and the action of endovanilloids will be evaluated. In summary, our results demonstrate that TRPV1 may be involved in the amygdala control of learning mechanisms.
Little is known about whether peripheral nerve injury during the early postnatal period modulates synaptic efficacy in the immature superficial dorsal horn (SDH) of the spinal cord, or whether the neonatal SDH network is sensitive to the proinflammatory cytokine TNFα under neuropathic conditions. Thus we examined the effects of TNFα on synaptic transmission and intrinsic membrane excitability in developing rat SDH neurons in the absence or presence of sciatic nerve damage.
The spared nerve injury (SNI) model of peripheral neuropathy at postnatal day (P)6 failed to significantly alter miniature excitatory (mEPSCs) or inhibitory (mIPSCs) postsynaptic currents in SDH neurons at P9-11. However, SNI did alter the sensitivity of excitatory synapses in the immature SDH to TNFα. While TNFα failed to influence mEPSCs or mIPSCs in slices from sham-operated controls, it significantly increased mEPSC frequency and amplitude following SNI without modulating synaptic inhibition onto the same neurons. This was accompanied by a significant decrease in the paired-pulse ratio of evoked EPSCs, suggesting TNFα increases the probability of glutamate release in the SDH under neuropathic conditions. Similarly, while SNI alone did not alter action potential (AP) threshold or rheobase in SDH neurons at this age, TNFα significantly decreased AP threshold and rheobase in the SNI group but not in sham-operated littermates. However, unlike the adult, the expression of TNFα in the immature dorsal horn was not significantly elevated during the first week following the SNI.
Developing SDH neurons become susceptible to regulation by TNFα following peripheral nerve injury in the neonate. This may include both a greater efficacy of glutamatergic synapses as well as an increase in the intrinsic excitability of immature dorsal horn neurons. However, neonatal sciatic nerve damage alone did not significantly modulate synaptic transmission or neuronal excitability in the SDH, which could reflect a relatively weak expression of TNFα in the injured spinal cord at early ages. The above data suggest that although the sensitivity of the SDH network to proinflammatory cytokines after nerve injury is present from the first days of life, the profile of spinal cytokine expression under neuropathic conditions may be highly age-dependent.
Novel classes of pain-relieving molecules are needed to fill the void between non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents and narcotics. We have recently shown that intraplantar administration of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) in rats causes peripheral sensitization and hyperalgesia through the S1P1 receptor subtype (S1PR1): the mechanism(s) involved are largely unknown and were thus explored in the present study. Intraplantar injection of carrageenan in rats led to a time-dependent development of thermal hyperalgesia that was associated with pronounced edema and infiltration of neutrophils in paw tissues. Inhibition of 1) S1P formation with SK-I, a sphingosine kinase inhibitor, 2) S1P bioavailability with the S1P blocking antibody Sphingomab, LT1002 (but not its negative control, LT1017) or 3) S1P actions through S1PR1 with the selective S1PR1 antagonist, W146 (but not its inactive enantiomer, W140) blocked thermal hyperalgesia and infiltration of neutrophils. Taken together, these findings identify S1P as an important contributor to inflammatory pain acting through S1PR1 to elicit hyperalgesia in a neutrophil-dependant manner. In addition and in further support, we demonstrate that the development of thermal hyperalgesia following intraplantar injection of S1P or SEW2871 (an S1PR1 agonist) was also associated with neutrophilic infiltration in paw tissues as these events were attenuated by fucoidan, an inhibitor of neutrophilic infiltration. Importantly, FTY720, an FDA-approved S1P receptor modulator known to block S1P-S1PR1 signaling, attenuated carrageenan-induced thermal hyperalgesia and associated neutrophil infiltration. Targeting the S1P/S1PR1 axis opens a therapeutic strategy for the development of novel non-narcotic anti-hyperalgesic agents.
Inhibitory synapse dysfunction may contribute to many developmental brain disorders, including the secondary consequences of sensory deprivation. In fact, developmental hearing loss leads to a profound reduction in the strength of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in the auditory cortex, and this deficit persists into adulthood. This finding is consistent with the general theory that the emergence of mature synaptic properties requires activity during development. Therefore, we tested the prediction that inhibitory strength can be restored following developmental hearing loss by boosting GABAergic transmission in vivo. Conductive or sensorineural hearing loss was induced surgically in gerbils prior to hearing onset and GABA agonists were then administered for one week. IPSCs were subsequently recorded from pyramidal neurons in a thalamocortical brain slice preparation. Administration of either a GABAA receptor a1 subunit specific agonist (zolpidem), or a selective GABA reuptake inhibitor (SGRI), rescued IPSC amplitude in hearing loss animals. Furthermore, this restoration persisted in adults, long after drug treatment ended. In contrast, a GABAB receptor agonist baclofen did not restore inhibitory strength. IPSCs could also be restored when SGRI administration began 3 weeks after sensory deprivation. Together, these results demonstrate long-lasting restoration of cortical inhibitory strength in the absence of normal experience. This suggests that in vivo GABAA receptor activation is sufficient to promote maturation, and this principle may extend to other developmental disorders associated with diminished inhibitory function.
Descending serotonergic, noradrenergic, and dopaminergic systems project diffusely to sensory, motor and autonomic spinal cord regions. Using neonatal mice, this study examined monoaminergic modulation of visceral sensory input and sympathetic preganglionic output. Whole-cell recordings from sympathetic preganglionic neurons (SPNs) in spinal cord slice demonstrated that serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine modulated SPN excitability. Serotonin depolarized all, while noradrenaline and dopamine depolarized most SPNs. Serotonin and noradrenaline also increased SPN current-evoked firing frequency, while both increases and decreases were seen with dopamine. In an in vitro thoracolumbar spinal cord/sympathetic chain preparation, stimulation of splanchnic nerve visceral afferents evoked reflexes and subthreshold population synaptic potentials in thoracic ventral roots that were dose-dependently depressed by the monoamines. Visceral afferent stimulation also evoked bicuculline-sensitive dorsal root potentials thought to reflect presynaptic inhibition via primary afferent depolarization. These dorsal root potentials were likewise dose-dependently depressed by the monoamines. Concomitant monoaminergic depression of population afferent synaptic transmission recorded as dorsal horn field potentials was also seen. Collectively, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine were shown to exert broad and comparable modulatory regulation of viscero-sympathetic function. The general facilitation of SPN efferent excitability with simultaneous depression of visceral afferent-evoked motor output suggests that descending monoaminergic systems reconfigure spinal cord autonomic function away from visceral sensory influence. Coincident monoaminergic reductions in dorsal horn responses support a multifaceted modulatory shift in the encoding of spinal visceral afferent activity. Similar monoamine-induced changes have been observed for somatic sensorimotor function, suggesting an integrative modulatory response on spinal autonomic and somatic function.
Inflammation is a part of the body’s natural response to tissue injury which initiates the healing process. Unfortunately, inflammation is frequently painful and leads to hypersensitivity to mechanical stimuli, which is difficult to treat clinically. While it is well established that altered sensory processing in the spinal cord contributes to mechanical hypersensitivity (central sensitization), it is still debated whether primary afferent neurons become sensitized to mechanical stimuli after tissue inflammation. We induced inflammation in C57BL/6 mice via intraplantar injection of Complete Freund’s Adjuvant. Cutaneous C fibers exhibited increased action potential firing to suprathreshold mechanical stimuli. We found that abnormal responses to intense mechanical stimuli were completely suppressed by acute incubation of the receptive terminals with the TRPA1 inhibitor, HC-030031. Further, elevated responses were predominantly exhibited by a specific subgroup of C fibers, which we determined to be C-Mechano Cold sensitive fibers. Thus, in the presence of HC-030031, C fiber mechanical responses in inflamed mice were not different than responses in saline-injected controls. We also demonstrate that injection of the HC-030031 compound into the hind paw of inflamed mice alleviates behavioral mechanical hyperalgesia without affecting heat hyperalgesia. Further, we pharmacologically anesthetized the TRPA1-expressing fibers in vivo by co-injecting the membrane-impermeable sodium channel inhibitor QX-314 and the TRPA1 agonist cinnamaldehyde into the hind paw. This approach also alleviated behavioral mechanical hyperalgesia in inflamed mice but left heat hypersensitivity intact. Our findings indicate that C-Mechano Cold sensitive fibers exhibit enhanced firing to suprathreshold mechanical stimuli in a TRPA1-dependent manner during inflammation, and that input from these fibers drives mechanical hyperalgesia in inflamed mice.
There is accumulating evidence to implicate the importance of EphBs receptors and ephrinBs ligands were involved in modulation of spinal nociceptive information. However, the downstream mechanisms that control this process are not well understood. In the present study, we investigated whether phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), as the downstream effectors, participates in modulation of spinal nociceptive information related to ephrinBs/EphBs. Intrathecal injection of ephrinB1-Fc produced a dose- and time-dependent thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia, accompanied by the increase of spinal PI3K-p110γ, phosphorylation of AKT (p-AKT) and c-Fos expression. Pre-treatment with PI3K inhibitor wortmannin or LY294002 prevented activation of spinal AKT induced by ephrinB1-Fc. Inhibition of spinal PI3K signaling dose-dependently prevented and reversed pain behaviors and spinal c-Fos protein expression induced by intrathecal injection of ephrinB1-Fc. Inhibition of EphBs receptors by intrathecal injection of EphB1-Fc reduced formalin-induced inflammation and chronic constrictive injury-induced neuropathic pain behaviors accompanied by decreased expression of spinal PI3K,p-AKT and c-Fos protein. Furthermore, pre-treatment with PI3K inhibitor wortmannin or LY294002 prevented ephrinB1-Fc-induced ERK activation in spinal. These data demonstrated that PI3K and PI3K crosstalk to ERK signaling contributed to modulation of spinal nociceptive information related to ephrinBs/EphBs.
Loperamide reverses signs of mechanical hypersensitivity in an animal model of neuropathic pain suggesting that peripheral opioid receptors may be suitable targets for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Since little is known about loperamide effects on the responsiveness of primary afferent nerve fibers, in vivo electrophysiological recordings from unmyelinated afferents innervating the glabrous skin of the hind paw were performed in rats with an L5 spinal nerve lesion or sham surgery. Mechanical threshold and responsiveness to suprathreshold stimulation were tested before and after loperamide (1.25, 2.5 and 5 µg in 10 µl) or vehicle injection into the cutaneous receptive field. Loperamide dose-dependently decreased mechanosensitivity in unmyelinated afferents of nerve-injured and sham animals, and this effect was not blocked by naloxone pretreatment. We then investigated loperamide effects on nerve conduction by recording compound action potentials in vitro during incubation of the sciatic nerve with increasing loperamide concentrations. Loperamide dose-dependently decreased compound action potentials of myelinated and unmyelinated fibers (ED50 = 8 and 4 µg/10 µl, respectively). This blockade was not prevented by pre-incubation with naloxone. These results suggest that loperamide reversal of behavioral signs of neuropathic pain may be mediated, at least in part, by mechanisms independent of opioid receptors, most probably by local anesthetic actions.
Painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN) is a common complication of diabetes mellitus and adversely affects the patients’ quality of life. Evidence has accumulated that PDN is associated with hyperexcitability of peripheral nociceptive primary sensory neurons. However, the precise cellular mechanism underlying PDN remains elusive. This may result in the lacking of effective therapies for the treatment of PDN. The phenolic glucoside, gastrodin, which is a main constituent of the Chinese herbal medicine Gastrodia elata Blume, has been widely used as an anticonvulsant, sedative, and analgesic since ancient times. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying its analgesic actions are not well understood. By utilizing a combination of behavioral surveys and electrophysiological recordings, the present study investigated the role of gastrodin in an experimental rat model of STZ-induced PDN and to further explore the underlying cellular mechanisms. Intraperitoneal administration of gastrodin effectively attenuated both the mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia induced by STZ injection. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings were obtained from nociceptive, capsaicin-sensitive small diameter neurons of the intact dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Recordings from diabetic rats revealed that the abnormal hyperexcitability of neurons was greatly abolished by application of GAS. To determine which currents were involved in the antinociceptive action of gastrodin, we examined the effects of gastrodin on transient sodium currents (INaT) and potassium currents in diabetic small DRG neurons. Diabetes caused a prominent enhancement of INaT and a decrease of potassium currents, especially slowly inactivating potassium currents (IAS); these effects were completely reversed by GAS in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, changes in activation and inactivation kinetics of INaT and total potassium current as well as IAS currents induced by STZ were normalized by GAS. This study provides a clear cellular basis for the peripheral analgesic action of gastrodin for the treatment of chronic pain, including PDN.
Joint degeneration observed in the rat monoiodoacetate (MIA) model of osteoarthritis shares many histological features with the clinical condition. The accompanying pain phenotype has seen the model widely used to investigate the pathophysiology of osteoarthritis pain, and for preclinical screening of analgesic compounds. We have investigated the pathophysiological sequellae of MIA used at low (1 mg) or high (2 mg) dose. Intra-articular 2 mg MIA induced expression of ATF-3, a sensitive marker for peripheral neuron stress/injury, in small and large diameter DRG cell profiles principally at levels L4 and 5 (levels predominated by neurones innervating the hindpaw) rather than L3. At the 7 day timepoint, ATF-3 signal was significantly smaller in 1 mg MIA treated animals than in the 2 mg treated group. 2 mg, but not 1 mg, intra-articular MIA was also associated with a significant reduction in intra-epidermal nerve fibre density in plantar hindpaw skin, and produced spinal cord dorsal and ventral horn microgliosis. The 2 mg treatment evoked mechanical pain-related hypersensitivity of the hindpaw that was significantly greater than the 1 mg treatment. MIA treatment produced weight bearing asymmetry and cold hypersensitivity which was similar at both doses. Additionally, while pregabalin significantly reduced deep dorsal horn evoked neuronal responses in animals treated with 2 mg MIA, this effect was much reduced or absent in the 1 mg or sham treated groups. These data demonstrate that intra-articular 2 mg MIA not only produces joint degeneration, but also evokes significant axonal injury to DRG cells including those innervating targets outside of the knee joint such as hindpaw skin. This significant neuropathic component needs to be taken into account when interpreting studies using this model, particularly at doses greater than 1 mg MIA.
The precise timing of events in the brain has consequences for intracellular processes, synaptic plasticity, integration and network behaviour. Pyramidal neurons, the most widespread excitatory neuron of the neocortex have multiple spike initiation zones, which interact via dendritic and somatic spikes actively propagating in all directions within the dendritic tree. For these neurons, therefore, both the location and timing of synaptic inputs are critical. The time window for which the backpropagating action potential can influence dendritic spike generation has been extensively studied in layer 5 neocortical pyramidal neurons of rat somatosensory cortex. Here, we re-examine this coincidence detection window for pyramidal cell types across the rat somatosensory cortex in layers 2/3, 5 and 6. We find that the time-window for optimal interaction is widest and shifted in layer 5 pyramidal neurons relative to cells in layers 6 and 2/3. Inputs arriving at the same time and locations will therefore differentially affect spike-timing dependent processes in the different classes of pyramidal neurons.
In vertebrate somatosensory systems, each mode of touch-pressure, temperature or pain is sensed by sensory endings of different dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, which conducted to the specific cortical loci as nerve impulses. Therefore, direct electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerve endings causes an erroneous sensation to be conducted by the nerve. We have recently generated several transgenic lines of rat in which channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) transgene is driven by the Thy-1.2 promoter. In one of them, W-TChR2V4, some neurons were endowed with photosensitivity by the introduction of the ChR2 gene, coding an algal photoreceptor molecule. The DRG neurons expressing ChR2 were immunohistochemically identified using specific antibodies to the markers of mechanoreceptive or nociceptive neurons. Their peripheral nerve endings in the plantar skin as well as the central endings in the spinal cord were also examined. We identified that ChR2 is expressed in a certain population of large neurons in the DRG of W-TChR2V4. On the basis of their morphology and molecular markers, these neurons were classified as mechanoreceptive but not nociceptive. ChR2 was also distributed in their peripheral sensory nerve endings, some of which were closely associated with CK20-positive cells to form Merkel cell-neurite complexes or with S-100-positive cells to form structures like Meissner's corpuscles. These nerve endings are thus suggested to be involved in the sensing of touch. Each W-TChR2V4 rat showed a sensory-evoked behavior in response to blue LED flashes on the plantar skin. It is thus suggested that each rat acquired an unusual sensory modality of sensing blue light through the skin as touch-pressure. This light-evoked somatosensory perception should facilitate study of how the complex tactile sense emerges in the brain.
Familial Dysautonomia (FD; Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy; HSAN III) manifests from a failure in development of the peripheral sensory and autonomic nervous systems. The disease results from a point mutation in the IKBKAP gene, which encodes the IKAP protein, whose function is still unresolved in the developing nervous system. Since the neurons most severely depleted in the disease derive from the neural crest, and in light of data identifying a role for IKAP in cell motility and migration, it has been suggested that FD results from a disruption in neural crest migration. To determine the function of IKAP during development of the nervous system, we (1) first determined the spatial-temporal pattern of IKAP expression in the developing peripheral nervous system, from the onset of neural crest migration through the period of programmed cell death in the dorsal root ganglia, and (2) using RNAi, reduced expression of IKBKAP mRNA in the neural crest lineage throughout the process of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) development in chick embryos in ovo. Here we demonstrate that IKAP is not expressed by neural crest cells and instead is expressed as neurons differentiate both in the CNS and PNS, thus the devastation of the PNS in FD could not be due to disruptions in neural crest motility or migration. In addition, we show that alterations in the levels of IKAP, through both gain and loss of function studies, perturbs neuronal polarity, neuronal differentiation and survival. Thus IKAP plays pleiotropic roles in both the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) contain the cell bodies of sensory neurons which relay nociceptive, thermoceptive, mechanoceptive and proprioceptive information from peripheral tissues toward the central nervous system. These neurons establish constant communication with their targets which insures correct maturation and functioning of the somato-sensory nervous system. Interfering with this two-way communication leads to cellular, electrophysiological and molecular modifications that can eventually cause neuropathic conditions. In this study we reveal that FXYD2, which encodes the gamma-subunit of the Na,K-ATPase reported so far to be mainly expressed in the kidney, is induced in the mouse DRGs at postnatal stages where it is restricted specifically to the TrkB-expressing mechanoceptive and Ret-positive/IB4-binding non-peptidergic nociceptive neurons. In non-peptidergic nociceptors, we show that the transcription factor Runx1 controls FXYD2 expression during the maturation of the somato-sensory system, partly through regulation of the tyrosine kinase receptor Ret. Moreover, Ret signaling maintains FXYD2 expression in adults as demonstrated by the axotomy-induced down-regulation of the gene that can be reverted by in vivo delivery of GDNF family ligands. Altogether, these results establish FXYD2 as a specific marker of defined sensory neuron subtypes and a new target of the Ret signaling pathway during normal maturation of the non-peptidergic nociceptive neurons and after sciatic nerve injury.
The role played by nonspecialized connective tissues in chronic non-specific low back pain is not well understood. In a recent ultrasound study, human subjects with chronic low back pain had altered connective tissue structure compared to human subjects without low back pain, suggesting the presence of inflammation and/or fibrosis in the low back pain subjects. Mechanical input in the form of static tissue stretch has been shown in vitro and in vivo to have anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects. To better understand the pathophysiology of lumbar nonspecialized connective tissue as well as potential mechanisms underlying therapeutic effects of tissue stretch, we developed a carrageenan-induced inflammation model in the low back of a rodent. Induction of inflammation in the lumbar connective tissues resulted in altered gait, increased mechanical sensitivity of the tissues of the low back, and local macrophage infiltration. Mechanical input was then applied to this model as in vivo tissue stretch for 10 minutes twice a day for 12 days. In vivo tissue stretch mitigated the inflammation-induced changes leading to restored stride length and intrastep distance, decreased mechanical sensitivity of the back and reduced macrophage expression in the nonspecialized connective tissues of the low back. This study highlights the need for further investigation into the contribution of connective tissue to low back pain and the need for a better understanding of how interventions involving mechanical stretch could provide maximal therapeutic benefit. This tissue stretch research is relevant to body-based treatments such as yoga or massage, and to some stretch techniques used with physical therapy.
Genetic ablation of Iron Regulatory Protein 2 (Irp2, Ireb2), which post-transcriptionally regulates iron metabolism genes, causes a gait disorder in mice that progresses to hind-limb paralysis. Here we have demonstrated that misregulation of iron metabolism from loss of Irp2 causes lower motor neuronal degeneration with significant spinal cord axonopathy. Mitochondria in the lumbar spinal cord showed significantly decreased Complex I and II activities, and abnormal morphology. Lower motor neurons appeared to be the most adversely affected neurons, and we show that functional iron starvation due to misregulation of iron import and storage proteins, including transferrin receptor 1 and ferritin, may have a causal role in disease. We demonstrated that two therapeutic approaches were beneficial for motor neuron survival. First, we activated a homologous protein, IRP1, by oral Tempol treatment and found that axons were partially spared from degeneration. Secondly, we genetically decreased expression of the iron storage protein, ferritin, to diminish functional iron starvation. These data suggest that functional iron deficiency may constitute a previously unrecognized molecular basis for degeneration of motor neurons in mice.
Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is a target tissue derived neurotrophin required for normal sympathetic neuron survival and target tissue innervation. NGF signaling regulates gene expression in sympathetic neurons, which in turn mediates critical aspects of neuron survival, axon extension and terminal axon branching during sympathetic nervous system (SNS) development. Egr3 is a transcription factor regulated by NGF signaling in sympathetic neurons that is essential for normal SNS development. Germline Egr3-deficient mice have physiologic dysautonomia characterized by apoptotic sympathetic neuron death and abnormal innervation to many target tissues. The extent to which sympathetic innervation abnormalities in the absence of Egr3 is caused by altered innervation or by neuron death during development is unknown. Using Bax-deficient mice to abrogate apoptotic sympathetic neuron death in vivo, we show that Egr3 has an essential role in target tissue innervation in the absence of neuron death. Sympathetic target tissue innervation is abnormal in many target tissues in the absence of neuron death, and like NGF, Egr3 also appears to effect target tissue innervation heterogeneously. In some tissues, such as heart, spleen, bowel, kidney, pineal gland and the eye, Egr3 is essential for normal innervation, whereas in other tissues such as lung, stomach, pancreas and liver, Egr3 appears to have little role in innervation. Moreover, in salivary glands and heart, two tissues where Egr3 has an essential role in sympathetic innervation, NGF and NT-3 are expressed normally in the absence of Egr3 indicating that abnormal target tissue innervation is not due to deregulation of these neurotrophins in target tissues. Taken together, these results clearly demonstrate a role for Egr3 in mediating sympathetic target tissue innervation that is independent of neuron survival or neurotrophin deregulation.
Paclitaxel (Taxol®) is a widely used chemotherapeutic agent that has a major dose limiting side-effect of painful peripheral neuropathy. Currently there is no effective therapy for the prevention or treatment of chemotherapy-induced painful peripheral neuropathies. Evidence for mitochondrial dysfunction during paclitaxel-induced pain was previously indicated with the presence of swollen and vacuolated neuronal mitochondria. As mitochondria are a major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS), the aim of this study was to examine whether pharmacological inhibition of ROS could reverse established paclitaxel-induced pain or prevent the development of paclitaxel-induced pain. Using a rat model of paclitaxel-induced pain (intraperitoneal 2 mg/kg paclitaxel on days 0, 2, 4 & 6), the effects of a non-specific ROS scavenger, N-tert-Butyl-α-phenylnitrone (PBN) and a superoxide selective scavenger, 4-hydroxy-2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl (TEMPOL) were compared. Systemic 100 mg/kg PBN administration markedly inhibited established paclitaxel-induced mechanical hypersensitivity to von Frey 8 g and 15 g stimulation and cold hypersensitivity to plantar acetone application. Daily systemic administration of 50 mg/kg PBN (days −1 to 13) completely prevented mechanical hypersensitivity to von Frey 4 g and 8 g stimulation and significantly attenuated mechanical hypersensitivity to von Frey 15 g. Systemic 100 mg/kg TEMPOL had no effect on established paclitaxel-induced mechanical or cold hypersensitivity. High dose (250 mg/kg) systemic TEMPOL significantly inhibited mechanical hypersensitivity to von Frey 8 g & 15 g, but to a lesser extent than PBN. Daily systemic administration of 100 mg/kg TEMPOL (day −1 to 12) did not affect the development of paclitaxel-induced mechanical hypersensitivity. These data suggest that ROS play a causal role in the development and maintenance of paclitaxel-induced pain, but such effects cannot be attributed to superoxide radicals alone.
Among scorpion species, the Buthidae produce the most deadly and painful venoms. However, little is known regarding the venom components that cause pain and their mechanism of action. Using a paw-licking assay (Mus musculus), this study compared the pain-inducing capabilities of venoms from two species of New World scorpion (Centruroides vittatus, C. exilicauda) belonging to the neurotoxin-producing family Buthidae with one species of non-neurotoxin producing scorpion (Vaejovis spinigerus) in the family Vaejovidae. A pain-inducing α-toxin (CvIV4) was isolated from the venom of C. vittatus and tested on five Na+ channel isoforms.
C. vittatus and C. exilicauda venoms produced significantly more paw licking in Mus than V. spinigerus venom. CvIV4 produced paw licking in Mus equivalent to the effects of whole venom. CvIV4 slowed the fast inactivation of Nav1.7, a Na+ channel expressed in peripheral pain-pathway neurons (nociceptors), but did not affect the Nav1.8-based sodium currents of these neurons. CvIV4 also slowed the fast inactivation of Nav1.2, Nav1.3 and Nav1.4. The effects of CvIV4 are similar to Old World α-toxins that target Nav1.7 (AahII, BmK MI, LqhIII, OD1), however the primary structure of CvIV4 is not similar to these toxins. Mutant Nav1.7 channels (D1586A and E1589Q, DIV S3–S4 linker) reduced but did not abolish the effects of CvIV4.
This study: 1) agrees with anecdotal evidence suggesting that buthid venom is significantly more painful than non-neurotoxic venom; 2) demonstrates that New World buthids inflict painful stings via toxins that modulate Na+ channels expressed in nociceptors; 3) reveals that Old and New World buthids employ similar mechanisms to produce pain. Old and New World α-toxins that target Nav1.7 have diverged in sequence, but the activity of these toxins is similar. Pain-inducing toxins may have evolved in a common ancestor. Alternatively, these toxins may be the product of convergent evolution.
Scratching relieves itch, but the underlying neural mechanisms are poorly understood. We presently investigated a role for the inhibitory neurotransmitters GABA and glycine in scratch-evoked inhibition of spinal itch-signaling neurons in a mouse model of chronic dry skin itch. Superficial dorsal horn neurons ipsilateral to hindpaw dry skin treatment exhibited a high level of spontaneous firing that was significantly attenuated by cutaneous scratching, pinch and noxious heat. Scratch-evoked inhibition was nearly abolished by spinal delivery of the glycine antagonist, strychnine, and was markedly attenuated by respective GABAA and GABAB antagonists bicuculline and saclofen. Scratch-evoked inhibition was also significantly attenuated (but not abolished) by interruption of the upper cervical spinal cord, indicating the involvement of both segmental and suprasegmental circuits that engage glycine- and GABA-mediated inhibition of spinal itch-signaling neurons by noxious counterstimuli.
Neuropeptide signaling plays roles in coordinating cellular activities and maintaining robust oscillations within the mammalian suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Prokineticin2 (PK2) is a signaling molecule from the SCN and involves in the generation of circadian locomotor activity. Prokineticin receptor 2 (PKR2), a receptor for PK2, has been shown to be expressed in the SCN. However, very little is known about the cellular action of PK2 within the SCN. In the present study, we investigated the effect of PK2 on spontaneous firing and miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) using whole cell patch-clamp recording in the SCN slices. PK2 dose-dependently increased spontaneous firing rates in most neurons from the dorsal SCN. PK2 acted postsynaptically to reduce γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic function within the SCN, and PK2 reduced the amplitude but not frequency of mIPSCs. Furthermore, PK2 also suppressed exogenous GABA-induced currents. And the inhibitory effect of PK2 required PKC activation in the postsynaptic cells. Our data suggest that PK2 could alter cellular activities within the SCN and may influence behavioral and physiological rhythms.