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1.  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
2.  Roles of ASIC3, TRPV1, and NaV1.8 in the transition from acute to chronic pain in a mouse model of fibromyalgia 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:40.
Tissue acidosis is effective in causing chronic muscle pain. However, how muscle nociceptors contribute to the transition from acute to chronic pain is largely unknown.
Here we showed that a single intramuscular acid injection induced a priming effect on muscle nociceptors of mice. The primed muscle nociceptors were plastic and permitted the development of long-lasting chronic hyperalgesia induced by a second acid insult. The plastic changes of muscle nociceptors were modality-specific and required the activation of acid-sensing ion channel 3 (ASIC3) or transient receptor potential cation channel V1 (TRPV1). Activation of ASIC3 was associated with increased activity of tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive voltage-gated sodium channels but not protein kinase Cϵ (PKCϵ) in isolectin B4 (IB4)-negative muscle nociceptors. In contrast, increased activity of TTX-resistant voltage-gated sodium channels with ASIC3 or TRPV1 activation in NaV1.8-positive muscle nociceptors was required for the development of chronic hyperalgesia. Accordingly, compared to wild type mice, NaV1.8-null mice showed briefer acid-induced hyperalgesia (5 days vs. >27 days).
ASIC3 activation may manifest a new type of nociceptor priming in IB4-negative muscle nociceptors. The activation of ASIC3 and TRPV1 as well as enhanced NaV1.8 activity are essential for the development of long-lasting hyperalgesia in acid-induced, chronic, widespread muscle pain.
PMCID: PMC4083869  PMID: 24957987
Acidosis; APETx2; Hyperalgesic priming; IB4; PKCϵ
3.  Descending controls modulate inflammatory joint pain and regulate CXC chemokine and iNOS expression in the dorsal horn 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:39.
Descending control of nociceptive processing, by pathways originating in the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) and terminating in the dorsal horn, contributes to behavioural hypersensitivity in a number of pain models. Two facilitatory pathways have been identified and are characterized by serotonin (5-HT) content or expression of the mu opiate receptor. Here we investigated the contribution of these pathways to inflammatory joint pain behaviour and gene expression changes in the dorsal horn.
Selective lesion of the descending serotonergic (5-HT) pathway by prior intrathecal administration of 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine attenuated hypersensitivity at early time points following ankle injection of CFA. In a separate study ablation of the mu opioid receptor expressing (MOR+) cells of the RVM, by microinjection of the toxin dermorphin-saporin, resulted in a more prolonged attenuation of hypersensitivity post CFA. Microarray analysis was carried out to identify changes in dorsal horn gene expression associated with descending facilitation by the MOR+ pathway at 7d post joint inflammation. This analysis led to the identification of a number of genes including the chemokines Cxcl9 and Cxcl10, their common receptor Cxcr3, and the proinflammatory gene Nos2 (inducible nitric oxide synthase, iNOS).
These findings demonstrate that joint pain behaviour is dependent in part on descending facilitation via the RVM, and identify a novel pathway driving CXC chemokine and iNOS expression in the dorsal horn.
PMCID: PMC4080690  PMID: 24947159
RVM; Joint pain; 5-HT; Mu opioid receptor; CXCL9; CXCL10; iNOS; CXCR3
4.  Decreased pain threshold and enhanced synaptic transmission in the anterior cingulate cortex of experimental hypothyroidism mice 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:38.
Thyroid hormones are essential for the maturation and functions of the central nervous system. Pain sensitivity is related to the thyroid status. However, information on how thyroid hormones affect pain processing and synaptic transmission in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is limited. Nociceptive threshold and synaptic transmission in the ACC were detected in the experimental hypothyroidism (HT) mice.
HT was induced by methimazole and potassium perchlorate in distilled drinking water for 4 weeks. The threshold of pain perception to hot insults, but not mechanical ones, decreased in hypothyroid mice. After treatment with tri-iodothyronine (T3) or thyroxine (T4) for 2 weeks, thermal pain threshold recovered. Electrophysiological recordings revealed enhanced glutamatergic synaptic transmission and reduced GABAergic synaptic transmission in the ACC. Supplementation with T3 or T4 significantly rescued this synaptic transmission imbalance. In the same model, HT caused the up-regulation of the GluR1 subunit of the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor and NR2B-containing N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, but it down-regulated γ-aminobutyric acid A receptors in the ACC. Supplementation with T3 or T4 notably recovered the levels of above proteins.
These results suggest that HT promotes hypersensitivity to noxious thermal, and that supplementation with T3 or T4 rescues the imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory transmission in the ACC.
PMCID: PMC4072477  PMID: 24943008
Thyroid hormone; Pain; Anterior cingulate cortex
5.  Gain and loss of function of P2X7 receptors: mechanisms, pharmacology and relevance to diabetic neuropathic pain 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:37.
Genetic causes of exaggerated or reduced pain sensitivity in humans are well known. Recently, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the gene P2RX7, coding for the ATP-gated ion channel P2X7, have been described that cause gain-of-function (GOF) and loss-of-function (LOF), respectively of this channel. Importantly, P2RX7 SNPs have been associated with more or less severe pain scores in patient suffering of post-mastectomy pain and osteoarthritis.
The functional consequences of some P2RX7 SNPs (rs208294 (His155Tyr), rs1718119 (Ala348Thr) and rs3751143 (Glu496Ala)) were studied in recombinant cells in vitro. Our findings suggest a correlation between GOF and LOF of P2X7 and actual channel protein expression. Both channel and pore function for these mutant P2X7 receptors changed in parallel to protein levels. On the other hand, the mutant receptors did not differ in their sensitivity to known P2X7 agonists and antagonists. We further demonstrated that in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPNP), the presence of the GOF SNPs rs208294 (His155Tyr) and rs1718119 (Ala348Thr) is associated, in females, with higher pain intensity scores.
Our present results confirm the physiological relevance of some of the SNPs in the P2RX7 gene and show that the presence of these genetic variants correlates with pain sensitivity also in a diabetic neuropathic pain patient population.
PMCID: PMC4072620  PMID: 24934217
P2X receptors; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Gain-of-function; Pain
6.  Peripheral administration of morphine attenuates postincisional pain by regulating macrophage polarization through COX-2-dependent pathway 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:36.
Macrophage infiltration to inflammatory sites promotes wound repair and may be involved in pain hypersensitivity after surgical incision. We recently reported that the development of hyperalgesia during chronic inflammation is regulated by macrophage polarity, often referred to as proinflammatory (M1) or anti-inflammatory (M2) macrophages. Although opioids such as morphine are known to alter the inflammatory milieu of incisional wounds through interactions with immunocytes, the macrophage-mediated effects of morphine on the development of postincisional pain have not been well investigated. In this study, we examined how morphine alters pain hypersensitivity through phenotypic shifts in local macrophages during the course of incision-induced inflammation.
Local administration of morphine in the early phase, but not in the late phase alleviated mechanical hyperalgesia, and this effect was reversed by clodronate-induced peripheral depletion of local macrophages. At the morphine-injected incisional sites, the number of pro-inflammatory F4/80+iNOS+M1 macrophages was decreased during the course of pain development whereas increased infiltration of wound healing F4/80+CD206+M2 macrophages was observed during the early phase. Morphine increased the gene expression of endogenous opioid, proenkephalin, and decreased the pronociceptive cytokine, interleukin-1β. Heme oxygenase (HO)-1 promotes the differentiation of macrophages to the M2 phenotype. An inhibitor of HO-1, tin protoporphyrin reversed morphine-induced analgesic effects and the changes in macrophage phenotype. However, local expression levels of HO-1 were not altered by morphine. Conversely, cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, primarily produced from peripheral macrophages in acute inflammation states, was up-regulated in the early phase at morphine-injected sites. In addition, the analgesic effects and a phenotype switching of infiltrated macrophages by morphine was reversed by local administration of a COX inhibitor, indomethacin.
Local administration of morphine alleviated the development of postincisional pain, possibly by altering macrophage polarity at the incisional sites. A morphine-induced shift in macrophage phenotype may be mediated by a COX-2-dependent mechanism. Therefore, μ-opioid receptor signaling in macrophages may be a potential therapeutic target during the early phase of postincisional pain development.
PMCID: PMC4079829  PMID: 24928142
Morphine; Postoperative pain; M1/M2 macrophages; Cyclooxygenase-2; Heme oxygenase-1
7.  Spinal 5-HT3 receptors mediate descending facilitation and contribute to behavioral hypersensitivity via a reciprocal neuron-glial signaling cascade 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:35.
It has been recently recognized that the descending serotonin (5-HT) system from the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) in the brainstem and the 5-HT3 receptor subtype in the spinal dorsal horn are involved in enhanced descending pain facilitation after tissue and nerve injury. However, the mechanisms underlying the activation of the 5-HT3 receptor and its contribution to facilitation of pain remain unclear.
In the present study, activation of spinal 5-HT3 receptors by intrathecal injection of a selective 5-HT3 receptor agonist SR 57227 induced spinal glial hyperactivity, neuronal hyperexcitability and pain hypersensitivity in rats. We found that there was neuron-to-microglia signaling via the chemokine fractalkine, microglia to astrocyte signaling via cytokine IL-18, astrocyte to neuronal signaling by IL-1β, and enhanced activation of NMDA receptors in the spinal dorsal horn. Glial hyperactivation in spinal dorsal horn after hindpaw inflammation was also attenuated by molecular depletion of the descending 5-HT system by intra-RVM Tph-2 shRNA interference.
These findings offer new insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms at the spinal level responsible for descending 5-HT-mediated pain facilitation during the development of persistent pain after tissue and nerve injury. New pain therapies should focus on prime targets of descending facilitation-induced glial involvement, and in particular the blocking of intercellular signaling transduction between neurons and glia.
PMCID: PMC4067691  PMID: 24913307
5-HT3 receptor; Glia; Proinflammatory cytokines; NMDA receptor; Pain
8.  Age-dependent sensitization of cutaneous nociceptors during developmental inflammation 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:34.
It is well-documented that neonates can experience pain after injury. However, the contribution of individual populations of sensory neurons to neonatal pain is not clearly understood. Here we characterized the functional response properties and neurochemical phenotypes of single primary afferents after injection of carrageenan into the hairy hindpaw skin using a neonatal ex vivo recording preparation.
During normal development, we found that individual afferent response properties are generally unaltered. However, at the time period in which some sensory neurons switch their neurotrophic factor responsiveness, we observe a functional switch in slowly conducting, broad spiking fibers (“C”-fiber nociceptors) from mechanically sensitive and thermally insensitive (CM) to polymodal (CPM). Cutaneous inflammation induced prior to this switch (postnatal day 7) specifically altered mechanical and heat responsiveness, and heat thresholds in fast conducting, broad spiking (“A”-fiber) afferents. Furthermore, hairy skin inflammation at P7 transiently delayed the functional shift from CM to CPM. Conversely, induction of cutaneous inflammation after the functional switch (at P14) caused an increase in mechanical and thermal responsiveness exclusively in the CM and CPM neurons. Immunocytochemical analysis showed that inflammation at either time point induced TRPV1 expression in normally non-TRPV1 expressing CPMs. Realtime PCR and western blotting analyses revealed that specific receptors/channels involved in sensory transduction were differentially altered in the DRGs depending on whether inflammation was induced prior to or after the functional changes in afferent prevalence.
These data suggest that the mechanisms of neonatal pain development may be generated by different afferent subtypes and receptors/channels in an age-related manner.
PMCID: PMC4059454  PMID: 24906209
Neonate; Inflammation; Primary afferents; Electrophysiology; Molecular biology; Plasticity
9.  Postsynaptic potentiation of corticospinal projecting neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex after nerve injury 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:33.
Long-term potentiation (LTP) is the key cellular mechanism for physiological learning and pathological chronic pain. In the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), postsynaptic recruitment or modification of AMPA receptor (AMPAR) GluA1 contribute to the expression of LTP. Here we report that pyramidal cells in the deep layers of the ACC send direct descending projecting terminals to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord (lamina I-III). After peripheral nerve injury, these projection cells are activated, and postsynaptic excitatory responses of these descending projecting neurons were significantly enhanced. Newly recruited AMPARs contribute to the potentiated synaptic transmission of cingulate neurons. PKA-dependent phosphorylation of GluA1 is important, since enhanced synaptic transmission was abolished in GluA1 phosphorylation site serine-845 mutant mice. Our findings provide strong evidence that peripheral nerve injury induce long-term enhancement of cortical-spinal projecting cells in the ACC. Direct top-down projection system provides rapid and profound modulation of spinal sensory transmission, including painful information. Inhibiting cortical top-down descending facilitation may serve as a novel target for treating neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC4060852  PMID: 24890933
10.  Nasal application of neuropeptide S inhibits arthritis pain-related behaviors through an action in the amygdala 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:32.
Recently discovered neuropeptide S (NPS) has anxiolytic and pain-inhibiting effects in rodents. We showed previously that NPS increases synaptic inhibition of amygdala output to inhibit pain behaviors. The amygdala plays a key role in emotional-affective aspects of pain. Of clinical significance is that NPS can be applied nasally to exert anxiolytic effects in rodents. This study tested the novel hypothesis that nasal application of NPS can inhibit pain-related behaviors in an arthritis model through NPS receptors (NPSR) in the amygdala. Behaviors and electrophysiological activity of amygdala neurons were measured in adult male Sprague Dawley rats. Nasal application of NPS, but not saline, inhibited audible and ultrasonic vocalizations and had anxiolytic-like effects in the elevated plus-maze test in arthritic rats (kaolin/carrageenan knee joint arthritis model) but had no effect in normal rats. Stereotaxic application of a selective non-peptide NPSR antagonist (SHA68) into the amygdala by microdialysis reversed the inhibitory effects of NPS. NPS had no effect on hindlimb withdrawal thresholds. We showed previously that intra-amygdala application of an NPSR antagonist alone had no effect. Nasal application of NPS or stereotaxic application of NPS into the amygdala by microdialysis inhibited background and evoked activity of amygdala neurons in arthritic, but not normal, anesthetized rats. The inhibitory effect was blocked by a selective NPSR antagonist ([D-Cys(tBu)5]NPS). In conclusion, nasal application of NPS can inhibit emotional-affective, but not sensory, pain-related behaviors through an action in the amygdala. The beneficial effects of non-invasive NPS application may suggest translational potential.
PMCID: PMC4046088  PMID: 24884567
Pain; Amygdala; Neuropeptide S; Emotion; Anxiety; Brain; Sensitization
11.  Artemin growth factor increases nicotinic cholinergic receptor subunit expression and activity in nociceptive sensory neurons 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:31.
Artemin (Artn), a member of the glial cell line-derived growth factor (GDNF) family, supports the development and function of a subpopulation of peptidergic, TRPV1-positive sensory neurons. Artn (enovin, neublastin) is elevated in inflamed tissue and its injection in skin causes transient thermal hyperalgesia. A genome wide expression analysis of trigeminal ganglia of mice that overexpress Artn in the skin (ART-OE mice) showed elevation in nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits, suggesting these ion channels contribute to Artn-induced sensitivity. Here we have used gene expression, immunolabeling, patch clamp electrophysiology and behavioral testing assays to investigate the link between Artn, nicotinic subunit expression and thermal hypersensitivity.
Reverse transcriptase-PCR validation showed increased levels of mRNAs encoding the nAChR subunits α3 (13.3-fold), β3 (4-fold) and β4 (7.7-fold) in trigeminal ganglia and α3 (4-fold) and β4 (2.8-fold) in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of ART-OE mice. Sensory ganglia of ART-OE mice had increased immunoreactivity for nAChRα3 and exhibited increased overlap in labeling with GFRα3-positive neurons. Patch clamp analysis of back-labeled cutaneous afferents showed that while the majority of nicotine-evoked currents in DRG neurons had biophysical and pharmacological properties of α7-subunit containing nAChRs, the Artn-induced increase in α3 and β4 subunits resulted in functional channels. Behavioral analysis of ART-OE and wildtype mice showed that Artn-induced thermal hyperalgesia can be blocked by mecamylamine or hexamethonium. Complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) inflammation of paw skin, which causes an increase in Artn in the skin, also increased the level of nAChR mRNAs in DRG. Finally, the increase in nAChRs transcription was not dependent on the Artn-induced increase in TRPV1 or TRPA1 in ART-OE mice since nAChRs were elevated in ganglia of TRPV1/TRPA1 double knockout mice.
These findings suggest that Artn regulates the expression and composition of nAChRs in GFRα3 nociceptors and that these changes contribute to the thermal hypersensitivity that develops in response to Artn injection and perhaps to inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4036648  PMID: 24886596
Artemin; Growth factor; Nicotinic receptor; Inflammation; Skin
12.  Acid mediates a prolonged antinociception via substance P signaling in acid-induced chronic widespread pain 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:30.
Substance P is an important neuropeptide released from nociceptors to mediate pain signals. We recently revealed antinociceptive signaling by substance P in acid-sensing ion channel 3 (ASIC3)-expressing muscle nociceptors in a mouse model of acid-induced chronic widespread pain. However, methods to specifically trigger the substance P antinociception were still lacking.
Here we show that acid could induce antinociceptive signaling via substance P release in muscle. We prevented the intramuscular acid-induced hyperalgesia by pharmacological inhibition of ASIC3 and transient receptor potential V1 (TRPV1). The antinociceptive effect of non-ASIC3, non-TRPV1 acid signaling lasted for 2 days. The non-ASIC3, non-TRPV1 acid antinociception was largely abolished in mice lacking substance P. Moreover, pretreatment with substance P in muscle mimicked the acid antinociceptive effect and prevented the hyperalgesia induced by next-day acid injection.
Acid could mediate a prolonged antinociceptive signaling via the release of substance P from muscle afferent neurons in a non-ASIC3, non-TRPV1 manner.
PMCID: PMC4039541  PMID: 24886508
Antinociception; ASIC3; TRPV1; Muscle pain; Nociceptor
13.  Role of spinal P2Y6 and P2Y11 receptors in neuropathic pain in rats: possible involvement of glial cells 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:29.
The participation of spinal P2X receptors in neuropathic pain is well recognized. However, the role of P2Y receptors has been less studied. The purpose of this study was to investigate the contribution of spinal P2Y6,11 receptors following peripheral nerve damage induced by spinal nerve ligation. In addition, we determined the expression of P2Y6,11 receptors in the dorsal spinal cord in presence of the selective P2Y6,11 receptors antagonists. Furthermore, we evaluated the participation of spinal microglia and astrocytes in the pronociceptive role of P2Y6,11 receptors.
Spinal administration of the selective P2Y6 (MRS2578, 10–100 μM) and P2Y11 (NF340, 0.3–30 μM) receptor antagonists reduced tactile allodynia in spinal nerve ligated rats. Nerve injury increased the expression of P2Y6,11 receptors at 7, 14 and 21 days after injury. Furthermore, intrathecal administration of MRS2578 (100 μM/day) and NF340 (30 μM/day) for 3 days significantly reduced spinal nerve injury-induced increase in P2Y6,11 receptors expression, respectively. Spinal treatment (on day 14 after injury) with minocycline (100 μg/day) or fluorocitrate (1 nmol/day) for 7 days reduced tactile allodynia and spinal nerve injury-induced up-regulation in Iba-1 and GFAP, respectively. In addition, minocycline reduced nerve injury-induced up-regulation in P2Y6,11 receptors whereas that fluorocitrate diminished P2Y11, but not P2Y6, receptors up-regulation. Intrathecal treatment (on day 21 after injury) with the selective P2Y6 (PSB0474, 3–30 μM) and P2Y11 (NF546, 1–10 μM) receptor agonists produced remarkable tactile allodynia in nerve ligated rats previously treated with minocycline or fluorocitrate for 7 days.
Our data suggest that spinal P2Y6 is present in spinal microglia while P2Y11 receptors are present in both spinal microglia and astrocytes, and both receptors are up-regulated in rats subjected to spinal nerve injury. In addition, our data suggest that the spinal P2Y6 and P2Y11 receptors participate in the maintenance of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC4039548  PMID: 24886406
Astrocytes; Microglia; Neuropathic pain; P2Y6 receptors; P2Y11 receptors; Spinal cord
14.  PAR2-mediated upregulation of BDNF contributes to central sensitization in bone cancer pain 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:28.
Bone cancer pain is currently a major clinical challenge for the management of cancer patients, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the spinal sensitization remain unclear. While several studies demonstrated the critical role of proteinase-activated receptor (PAR2) in the pathogenesis of several types of inflammatory or neuropathic pain, the involvement of spinal PAR2 and the pertinent signaling in the central sensitization is not determined yet in the rodent model of bone cancer pain.
Implantation of tumor cells into the tibias induced significant thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia, and enhanced glutamatergic strength in the ipsilateral dorsal horn. Significantly increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression was detected in the dorsal horn, and blockade of spinal BDNF signaling attenuated the enhancement of glutamatergic strength, thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia in the rats with bone cancer pain. Significantly increased spinal PAR2 expression was also observed, and inhibition of PAR2 signaling ameliorated BDNF upsurge, enhanced glutamatergic strength, and thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia. Inhibition of NF-κB pathway, the downstream of PAR2 signaling, also significantly decreased the spinal BDNF expression, glutamatergic strength of dorsal horn neurons, and thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia.
The present study demonstrated that activation of PAR2 triggered NF-κB signaling and significantly upregulated the BDNF function, which critically contributed to the enhancement of glutamatergic transmission in spinal dorsal horn and thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity in the rats with bone cancer. This indicated that PAR2 - NF-κB signaling might become a novel target for the treatment of pain in patients with bone cancer.
PMCID: PMC4027994  PMID: 24886294
Proteinase-activated receptor 2; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Nuclear factor-κB; Glutamatergic transmission; Bone cancer pain
15.  Prophylactic cannabinoid administration blocks the development of paclitaxel-induced neuropathic nociception during analgesic treatment and following cessation of drug delivery 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:27.
Chemotherapeutic treatment results in chronic pain in an estimated 30-40 percent of patients. Limited and often ineffective treatments make the need for new therapeutics an urgent one. We compared the effects of prophylactic cannabinoids as a preventative strategy for suppressing development of paclitaxel-induced nociception. The mixed CB1/CB2 agonist WIN55,212-2 was compared with the cannabilactone CB2-selective agonist AM1710, administered subcutaneously (s.c.), via osmotic mini pumps before, during, and after paclitaxel treatment. Pharmacological specificity was assessed using CB1 (AM251) and CB2 (AM630) antagonists. The impact of chronic drug infusion on transcriptional regulation of mRNA markers of astrocytes (GFAP), microglia (CD11b) and cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2) was assessed in lumbar spinal cords of paclitaxel and vehicle-treated rats.
Both WIN55,212-2 and AM1710 blocked the development of paclitaxel-induced mechanical and cold allodynia; anti-allodynic efficacy persisted for approximately two to three weeks following cessation of drug delivery. WIN55,212-2 (0.1 and 0.5 mg/kg/day s.c.) suppressed the development of both paclitaxel-induced mechanical and cold allodynia. WIN55,212-2-mediated suppression of mechanical hypersensitivity was dominated by CB1 activation whereas suppression of cold allodynia was relatively insensitive to blockade by either CB1 (AM251; 3 mg/kg/day s.c.) or CB2 (AM630; 3 mg/kg/day s.c.) antagonists. AM1710 (0.032 and 3.2 mg/kg /day) suppressed development of mechanical allodynia whereas only the highest dose (3.2 mg/kg/day s.c.) suppressed cold allodynia. Anti-allodynic effects of AM1710 (3.2 mg/kg/day s.c.) were mediated by CB2. Anti-allodynic efficacy of AM1710 outlasted that produced by chronic WIN55,212-2 infusion. mRNA expression levels of the astrocytic marker GFAP was marginally increased by paclitaxel treatment whereas expression of the microglial marker CD11b was unchanged. Both WIN55,212-2 (0.5 mg/kg/day s.c.) and AM1710 (3.2 mg/kg/day s.c.) increased CB1 and CB2 mRNA expression in lumbar spinal cord of paclitaxel-treated rats in a manner blocked by AM630.
Conclusions and implications
Cannabinoids block development of paclitaxel-induced neuropathy and protect against neuropathic allodynia following cessation of drug delivery. Chronic treatment with both mixed CB1/CB2 and CB2 selective cannabinoids increased mRNA expression of cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2) in a CB2-dependent fashion. Our results support the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for suppressing chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in humans.
PMCID: PMC3998744  PMID: 24742127
Cannabinoid; CB1; CB2; Chemotherapy; Cold allodynia; Mechanical allodynia; Osmotic mini pump; Paclitaxel
16.  A simplified up-down method (SUDO) for measuring mechanical nociception in rodents using von Frey filaments 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:26.
The measurement of mechanosensitivity is a key method for the study of pain in animal models. This is often accomplished with the use of von Frey filaments in an up-down testing paradigm. The up-down method described by Chaplan et al. (J Neurosci Methods 53:55–63, 1994) for mechanosensitivity testing in rodents remains one of the most widely used methods for measuring pain in animals. However, this method results in animals receiving a varying number of stimuli, which may lead to animals in different groups receiving different testing experiences that influences their later responses. To standardize the measurement of mechanosensitivity we developed a simplified up-down method (SUDO) for estimating paw withdrawal threshold (PWT) with von Frey filaments that uses a constant number of five stimuli per test. We further refined the PWT calculation to allow the estimation of PWT directly from the behavioral response to the fifth stimulus, omitting the need for look-up tables.
The PWT estimates derived using SUDO strongly correlated (r > 0.96) with the PWT estimates determined with the conventional up-down method of Chaplan et al., and this correlation remained very strong across different levels of tester experience, different experimental conditions, and in tests from both mice and rats. The two testing methods also produced similar PWT estimates in prospective behavioral tests of mice at baseline and after induction of hyperalgesia by intraplantar capsaicin or complete Freund’s adjuvant.
SUDO thus offers an accurate, fast and user-friendly replacement for the widely used up-down method of Chaplan et al.
PMCID: PMC4020614  PMID: 24739328
Mechanosensitivity; Pain measurement; Rodents; Allodynia; Nociception
17.  Contrasting alterations to synaptic and intrinsic properties in upper-cervical superficial dorsal horn neurons following acute neck muscle inflammation 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:25.
Acute and chronic pain in axial structures, like the back and neck, are difficult to treat, and have incidence as high as 15%. Surprisingly, most preclinical work on pain mechanisms focuses on cutaneous structures in the limbs and animal models of axial pain are not widely available. Accordingly, we developed a mouse model of acute cervical muscle inflammation and assessed the functional properties of superficial dorsal horn (SDH) neurons.
Male C57/Bl6 mice (P24-P40) were deeply anaesthetised (urethane 2.2 g/kg i.p) and the rectus capitis major muscle (RCM) injected with 40 μl of 2% carrageenan. Sham animals received vehicle injection and controls remained anaesthetised for 2 hrs. Mice in each group were sacrificed at 2 hrs for analysis. c-Fos staining was used to determine the location of activated neurons. c-Fos labelling in carrageenan-injected mice was concentrated within ipsilateral (87% and 63% of labelled neurons in C1 and C2 segments, respectively) and contralateral laminae I - II with some expression in lateral lamina V. c-Fos expression remained below detectable levels in control and sham animals. In additional experiments, whole cell recordings were obtained from visualised SDH neurons in transverse slices in the ipsilateral C1 and C2 spinal segments. Resting membrane potential and input resistance were not altered. Mean spontaneous EPSC amplitude was reduced by ~20% in neurons from carrageenan-injected mice versus control and sham animals (20.63 ± 1.05 vs. 24.64 ± 0.91 and 25.87 ± 1.32 pA, respectively). The amplitude (238 ± 33 vs. 494 ± 96 and 593 ± 167 pA) and inactivation time constant (12.9 ± 1.5 vs. 22.1 ± 3.6 and 15.3 ± 1.4 ms) of the rapid A type potassium current (IAr), the dominant subthreshold current in SDH neurons, were reduced in carrageenan-injected mice.
Excitatory synaptic drive onto, and important intrinsic properties (i.e., IAr) within SDH neurons are reduced two hours after acute muscle inflammation. We propose this time point represents an important transition period between peripheral and central sensitisation with reduced excitatory drive providing an initial neuroprotective mechanism during the early stages of the progression towards central sensitisation.
PMCID: PMC4032164  PMID: 24725960
Mice; A-current; EPSC; Carrageenan; Action potential
18.  The chemerin receptor 23 agonist, chemerin, attenuates monosynaptic C-fibre input to lamina I neurokinin 1 receptor expressing rat spinal cord neurons in inflammatory pain 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:24.
Recent evidence has shown that the chemerin receptor 23 (ChemR23) represents a novel inflammatory pain target, whereby the ChemR23 agonists, resolvin E1 and chemerin, can inhibit inflammatory pain hypersensitivity, by a mechanism that involves normalisation of potentiated spinal cord responses. This study has examined the ability of the ChemR23 agonist, chemerin, to modulate synaptic input to lamina I neurokinin 1 receptor expressing (NK1R+) dorsal horn neurons, which are known to be crucial for the manifestation of inflammatory pain.
Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from pre-identified lamina I NK1R+ neurons, in rat spinal cord slices, revealed that chemerin significantly attenuates capsaicin potentiation of miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (mEPSC) frequency, but is without effect in non-potentiated conditions. In tissue isolated from complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) treated rats, chemerin significantly reduced the peak amplitude of monosynaptic C-fibre evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (eEPSCs) in a subset of lamina I NK1R+ neurons, termed chemerin responders. However, chemerin did not alter the peak amplitude of monosynaptic C-fibre eEPSCs in control tissue. Furthermore, paired-pulse recordings in CFA tissue demonstrated that chemerin significantly reduced paired-pulse depression in the subset of neurons classified as chemerin responders, but was without effect in non-responders, indicating that chemerin acts presynaptically to attenuate monosynaptic C-fibre input to a subset of lamina I NK1R+ neurons.
These results suggest that the reported ability of ChemR23 agonists to attenuate inflammatory pain hypersensitivity may in part be due to a presynaptic inhibition of monosynaptic C-fibre input to lamina I NK1R+ neurons and provides further evidence that ChemR23 represents a promising inflammatory pain target.
PMCID: PMC4023702  PMID: 24716552
Dorsal horn; Lamina I; NK1R; Projection neurons; Chemerin; ChemR23; Inflammatory pain; Resolvins
20.  The effect of acupuncture needle combination on central pain processing-an fMRI study 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:23.
Empirical acupuncture treatment paradigm for acute pain utilizing Tendinomuscular Meridians (TMM) calls for the stimulation of Ting Points (TPs) and Gathering point(GP). This study aims to compare the supraspinal neuronal mechanisms associated with both TPs and GP needling (EA3), and TPs needling alone (EA2) with fMRI.
A significant (P < 0.01) difference between pre-scan (heat Pain) HP, and post-EA HP VAS scores in both paradigms was noted (n = 11). The post-EA HP VAS score was significantly (P < 0.05) lower with EA3 comparing to EA2 Within-group random effect analysis indicated that EA3+HP>EA3 (condition EA3+HP subtracted by condition EA3) appeared to exert a significant degree of activity suppression in the affective supraspinal regions including the IPL, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the insular cortex (IN). This level of suppression was not observed in the EA2+HP>EA2 (condition EA2+HP subtracted by condition EA2) within-group random effect analysis Between-group random effect analysis indicated that EA3 induced a significantly (P < 0.01, cluster size threshold 150) higher degree of deactivation than EA2 in several pain related supraspinal regions including the right prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate (rACC), medial cingulate cortex, left inferior frontal lobe and posterior cerebellum. The 2-factor ANOVA in those regions indicated both rACC and posterior cerebellum had a significant (P < 0.01) needle effect, and the right prefrontal area showed a significant (P < 0.01) HP effect. However, a significant interaction between the two factors was only found in the right prefrontal lobe. Granger causality analysis showed EA3 induced a much higher degree of inference among HP related supraspinal somatosensory, affective and modulatory components than EA2. Deactivation pattern at the medullary-pontine area casted a direct inference on the deactivation pattern of secondary somatosensory cortices which also affected the deactivation of the IN.
While both EA2 and EA3 induced a significant degree of deactivation in the human brain regions related to pain processing, the addition of GP stimulation further exerts an inhibitory effect on the ascending spinoreticular pain pathway. Therefore, different needling position as mandated in different empirical acupuncture treatment paradigms may play a different role in modulating pain related neuronal functions.
PMCID: PMC3986941  PMID: 24667015
TMM; Tendinomuscular meridian; Acupuncture; Analgesia; Analgesic mechanisms; fMRI; Electroacupuncture
21.  Inhibition of G protein-coupled P2Y2 receptor induced analgesia in a rat model of trigeminal neuropathic pain 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:21.
ATP and P2X receptors play important roles in the modulation of trigeminal neuropathic pain, while the role of G protein-coupled P2Y2 receptors and the underlying mechanisms are less clear. The threshold and frequency of action potentials, fast inactivating transient K+ channels (IA) are important regulators of membrane excitability in sensory neurons because of its vital role in the control of the spike onset. In this study, pain behavior tests, QT-RT-PCR, immunohistochemical staining, and patch-clamp recording, were used to investigate the role of P2Y2 receptors in pain behaviour.
In control rats: 1) UTP, an agonist of P2Y2/P2Y4 receptors, caused a significant decrease in the mean threshold intensities for evoking action potentials and a striking increase in the mean number of spikes evoked by TG neurons. 2) UTP significantly inhibited IA and the expression of Kv1.4, Kv3.4 and Kv4.2 subunits in TG neurons, which could be reversed by the P2 receptor antagonist suramin and the ERK antagonist U0126. In ION-CCI (chronic constriction injury of infraorbital nerve) rats: 1) mRNA levels of Kv1.4, Kv3.4 and Kv4.2 subunits were significantly decreased, while the protein level of phosphorylated ERK was significantly increased. 2) When blocking P2Y2 receptors by suramin or injection of P2Y2R antisense oligodeoxynucleotides both led to a time- and dose-dependent reverse of allodynia in ION-CCI rats. 3) Injection of P2Y2 receptor antisense oligodeoxynucleotides induced a pronounced decrease in phosphorylated ERK expression and a significant increase in Kv1.4, Kv3.4 and Kv4.2 subunit expression in trigeminal ganglia.
Our data suggest that inhibition of P2Y2 receptors leads to down-regulation of ERK-mediated phosphorylation and increase of the expression of IA–related Kv channels in trigeminal ganglion neurons, which might contribute to the clinical treatment of trigeminal neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3995183  PMID: 24642246
Antisense oligodeoxynucleotides; ERK; Excitability; IA channels; P2Y2 receptors; Trigeminal ganglion; Trigeminal neuropathic pain
22.  Supraspinal characterization of the thermal grill illusion with fMRI 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:18.
Simultaneous presentation of non-noxious warm (40°C) and cold (20°C) stimuli in an interlacing fashion results in a transient hot burning noxious sensation (matched at 46°C) known as the thermal grill (TG) illusion. Functional magnetic resonance imaging and psychophysical assessments were utilized to compare the supraspinal events related to the spatial summation effect of three TG presentations: 20°C/20°C (G2020), 20°C/40°C (G2040) and 40°C/40°C (G4040) with corresponding matched thermode stimuli: 20°C (P20), 46°C (P46) and 40°C (P40) and hot pain (HP) stimuli.
For G2040, the hot burning sensation was only noted during the initial off-line assessment. In comparison to P40, G4040 resulted in an equally enhanced response from all supraspinal regions associated with both pain sensory/discriminatory and noxious modulatory response. In comparison to P20, G2020 presentation resulted in a much earlier diminished/sedative response leading to a statistically significantly (P < 0.01) higher degree of deactivation in modulatory supraspinal areas activated by G4040. Granger Causality Analysis showed that while thalamic activation in HP may cast activation inference in all hot pain related somatosensory, affective and modulatory areas, similar activation in G2040 and G2020 resulted in deactivation inference in the corresponding areas.
In short, the transient TG sensation is caused by a dissociated state derived from non-noxious warm and cold spatial summation interaction. The observed central dissociated state may share some parallels in certain chronic neuropathic pain states.
PMCID: PMC3995740  PMID: 24612493
Thermal grill illusion; Neuropathic pain; Sensory integration; Spatial summation; fMRI
23.  Voltage-gated sodium channel expression in mouse DRG after SNI leads to re-evaluation of projections of injured fibers 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:19.
Dysregulation of voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) is believed to play a major role in nerve fiber hyperexcitability associated with neuropathic pain. A complete transcriptional characterization of the different isoforms of Navs under normal and pathological conditions had never been performed on mice, despite their widespread use in pain research. Navs mRNA levels in mouse dorsal root ganglia (DRG) were studied in the spared nerve injury (SNI) and spinal nerve ligation (SNL) models of neuropathic pain. In the SNI model, injured and non-injured neurons were intermingled in lumbar DRG, which were pooled to increase the tissue available for experiments.
A strong downregulation was observed for every Navs isoform expressed except for Nav1.2; even Nav1.3, known to be upregulated in rat neuropathic pain models, was lower in the SNI mouse model. This suggests differences between these two species. In the SNL model, where the cell bodies of injured and non-injured fibers are anatomically separated between different DRG, most Navs were observed to be downregulated in the L5 DRG receiving axotomized fibers. Transcription was then investigated independently in the L3, L4 and L5 DRG in the SNI model, and an important downregulation of many Navs isoforms was observed in the L3 DRG, suggesting the presence of numerous injured neurons there after SNI. Consequently, the proportion of axotomized neurons in the L3, L4 and L5 DRG after SNI was characterized by studying the expression of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3). Using this marker of nerve injury confirmed that most injured fibers find their cell bodies in the L3 and L4 DRG after SNI in C57BL/6 J mice; this contrasts with their L4 and L5 DRG localization in rats. The spared sural nerve, through which pain hypersensitivity is measured in behavioral studies, mostly projects into the L4 and L5 DRG.
The complex regulation of Navs, together with the anatomical rostral shift of the DRG harboring injured fibers in C57BL/6 J mice, emphasize that caution is necessary and preliminary anatomical experiments should be carried out for gene and protein expression studies after SNI in mouse strains.
PMCID: PMC4007621  PMID: 24618114
Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3); Dorsal root ganglia (DRG); Nerve injury; Neuropathic pain; Quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR); Sciatic nerve; Spared nerve injury (SNI); Spinal nerve ligation (SNL); Voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs)
24.  Alleviation of behavioral hypersensitivity in mouse models of inflammatory pain with two structurally different casein kinase 1 (CK1) inhibitors 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:17.
The phylogenetically highly conserved CK1 protein kinases consisting of at least seven isoforms form a distinct family within the eukaryotic protein kinases. CK1 family members play crucial roles in a wide range of signaling activities. However, the functional role of CK1 in somatosensory pain signaling has not yet been fully understood. The aim of this study was to clarify the role of CK1 in the regulation of inflammatory pain in mouse carrageenan and complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) models.
We have used two structurally different CK1 inhibitors, TG003 and IC261. TG003, which was originally identified as a cdc2-like kinase inhibitor, had potent inhibitory effects on CK1 isoforms in vitro and in cultured cells. Intrathecal injection of either TG003 (1-100 pmol) or IC261 (0.1-1 nmol) dose-dependently decreased mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia induced by carrageenan or CFA. Bath-application of either TG003 (1 μM) or IC261 (1 μM) had only marginal effects on spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) recorded in the substantia gelatinosa neurons of control mice. However, both compounds decreased the frequency of sEPSCs in both inflammatory pain models.
These results suggest that CK1 plays an important pathophysiological role in spinal inflammatory pain transmission, and that inhibition of the CK1 activity may provide a novel strategy for the treatment of inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC4008364  PMID: 24612480
Allodynia; Carrageenan; Complete Freund’s adjuvant; CFA; Hyperalgesia; Whole-cell patch-clamp

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