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Original Research, Basic Neurobiology

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Unravelling the dorsal periaqueductal grey matter NMDA receptors relevance in the nitric oxide-mediated panic‑like behaviour and defensive antinociception organised by the anterior hypothalamus of male mice.

Previous studies suggested that the dorsal column of the periaqueductal grey matter (dPAG) can be a target of neural pathways from hypothalamic nuclei involved in triggering fear-related defensive responses. In turn, evidence is provided suggesting that microinjection of the nitric oxide (NO) donor SIN-1 into the anterior hypothalamus (AH) of mice evokes panic-like behaviours and fear-induced antinociception. However, it is unknown whether the dPAG of mice mediates these latter defensive responses organised by AH neurons.

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Excitatory projections from the prefrontal cortex to nucleus accumbens core D1-MSNs and kappa opioid receptor modulate itch-related scratching behaviors.

Itch is an uncomfortable and complex sensation that elicits the desire to scratch. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) activity is important in driving sensation, motivation, and emotion. Excitatory afferents from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), amygdala, and hippocampus are crucial in tuning the activity of dopamine receptor D1- and D2-expressing medium spiny neurons (Drd1- and Drd2-MSNs) in the NAc. However, a cell-type and neural circuity-based mechanism of the NAc underlying acute itch remains unclear. We found that acute itch induced by compound 48/80 (C48/80) decreased the intrinsic membrane excitability in Drd1-MSNs, but not in Drd2-MSNs in the NAc core of male mice. Chemogenetic activation of Drd1-MSNs alleviated C48/80-induced scratching behaviors, but not itch-related anxiety-like behaviors. In addition, C48/80 enhanced the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) and reduced the paired-pulse ratio of electrical stimulation-evoked EPSCs in Drd1-MSNs. Furthermore, C48/80 increased excitatory synaptic afferents to Drd1-MSNs from the mPFC, not from the basolateral amygdala or ventral hippocampus. Consistently, the intrinsic excitability of mPFC-NAc projecting pyramidal neurons was increased after C48/80 treatment. Chemogenetic inhibition of mPFC-NAc excitatory synaptic afferents relieved the scratching behaviors. Moreover, pharmacological activation of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) in the NAc core suppressed C48/80-induced scratching behaviors, and the modulation of KOR activity in the NAc resulted in the changes of presynaptic excitatory inputs to Drd1-MSNs in C48/80-treated mice. Together, these results reveal the neural plasticity in synapses of NAc Drd1-MSNs from the mPFC underlying acute itch and indicate the modulatory role of the KOR in itch-related scratching behaviors.Itch stimuli cause strongly scratching desire and anxiety in patients. However, the related neural mechanisms remain largely unclear. In the present study, we demonstrated that the pruritogen compound 48/80 (C48/80) shapes the excitability of dopamine receptor D1-expressing medium spiny neurons (Drd1-MSNs) in the NAc core and the glutamatergic synaptic afferents from medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to these neurons. Chemogenetic activation of Drd1-MSNs or inhibition of mPFC-NAc excitatory synaptic afferents relieves the scratching behaviors. In addition, pharmacological activation of kappa opioid receptor (KOR) in the NAc core alleviates C48/80-induced itch. Thus, targeting mPFC-NAc Drd1-MSNs or KOR may provide effective treatments for itch.

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Risk factors for persistent pain after breast cancer surgery: a multicentre prospective cohort study.

Identifying factors associated with persistent pain after breast cancer surgery may facilitate risk stratification and individualised management. Single-population studies have limited generalisability as socio-economic and genetic factors contribute to persistent pain development. Therefore, this prospective multicentre cohort study aimed to develop a predictive model from a sample of Asian and American women. We enrolled women undergoing elective breast cancer surgery at KK Women's and Children's Hospital and Duke University Medical Center. Pre-operative patient and clinical characteristics and EQ-5D-3L health status were recorded. Pain catastrophising scale; central sensitisation inventory; coping strategies questionnaire-revised; brief symptom inventory-18; perceived stress scale; mechanical temporal summation; and pressure-pain threshold assessments were performed. Persistent pain was defined as pain score ≥ 3 or pain affecting activities of daily living 4 months after surgery. Univariate associations were generated using generalised estimating equations. Enrolment site was forced into the multivariable model, and risk factors with p < 0.2 in univariate analyses were considered for backwards selection. Of 210 patients, 135 (64.3%) developed persistent pain. The multivariable model attained AUC = 0.807, with five independent associations: age (OR 0.85 95%CI 0.74-0.98 per 5 years); diabetes (OR 4.68, 95%CI 1.03-21.22); pre-operative pain score at sites other than the breast (OR 1.48, 95%CI 1.11-1.96); previous mastitis (OR 4.90, 95%CI 1.31-18.34); and perceived stress scale (OR 1.35, 95%CI 1.01-1.80 per 5 points), after adjusting for: enrolment site; pre-operative pain score at the breast; pre-operative overall pain score at rest; postoperative non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use; and pain catastrophising scale. Future research should validate this model and evaluate pre-emptive interventions to reduce persistent pain risk.

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Ulinastatin inhibits microglia activation in spinal cord via P2Y12 receptor in a rat neuropathic pain model.

Ulinastatin, a broad spectrum of serine protease inhibitor, has been found to alleviate neuropathic pain (NPP). However, its mechanism is not completely clear. Here, a sciatic nerve ligation rat model and BV2 microglial cells were used to investigate the effect of Ulinastatin on the activation of microglia and P2Y12 receptors in vivo and in vitro. Levels of P2Y12 receptor and NF-κB (P65) expression in the dorsal horn of the lumbar enlargement region of the spinal cord and BV2 cells were assessed by immunohistochemistry and double-label immunofluorescence assays. Levels of IL-1β and TNF-α in cell culture medium and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were examined by ELISA. The results showed that Ulinastatin reduced the release of inflammatory IL-1β and TNF-α by inhibiting the activation of spinal microglia. Ulinastatin down-regulated P2Y12 receptor and NF-κB (P65) expression in the spinal microglia of the chronic constrictive injury model. The results indicated that Ulinastatin may attenuate the activation of spinal microglia after peripheral nerve injury by inhibiting the activation of P2Y12 receptor signal pathway in microglia. NF-kB may play a key role in the mechanism of Ulinastatin.

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Associations Between Urologic Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome Symptom Flares, Illness Impact, and Health Care Seeking Activity: Findings from the Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain Symptom Patterns Study.

Most studies on interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome use typical or average levels of pelvic pain or urologic symptom intensity as their outcome, as both are associated with reduced quality of life (QOL). Symptom exacerbations or "flares" have also been found to be associated with reduced QOL, but no studies, to our knowledge, have investigated whether these associations are independent of typical pelvic pain levels and thus might be useful additional outcome measures (or stated differently, whether reducing flare frequency even without reducing mean pain intensity may be important to patients).

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Catechol-O-Methyltransferase Loss Drives Cell-Specific Nociceptive Signaling via the Enteric COMT/miR-155/TNF-α Axis.

The etiology of abdominal pain in post-infectious, diarrhea-predominant IBS (PI-IBS-D) is unknown and few treatment options exist. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme that inactivates and degrades biologically active catecholamines, plays an important role in numerous physiologic processes, including modulation of pain perception. Our objective was to determine the mechanism(s) of how decreased colonic COMT in PI-IBS-D patients contributes to the chronic abdominal pain phenotype following enteric infections.

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Influence of the Peripheral Nervous System on Murine Osteoporotic Fracture Healing and Fracture-Induced Hyperalgesia.

Osteoporotic fractures are often linked to persisting chronic pain and poor healing outcomes. Substance P (SP), α-calcitonin gene-related peptide (α-CGRP) and sympathetic neurotransmitters are involved in bone remodeling after trauma and nociceptive processes, e.g., fracture-induced hyperalgesia. We aimed to link sensory and sympathetic signaling to fracture healing and fracture-induced hyperalgesia under osteoporotic conditions. Externally stabilized femoral fractures were set 28 days after OVX in wild type (WT), α-CGRP- deficient (α-CGRP -/-), SP-deficient (Tac1-/-) and sympathectomized (SYX) mice. Functional MRI (fMRI) was performed two days before and five and 21 days post fracture, followed by µCT and biomechanical tests. Sympathectomy affected structural bone properties in the fracture callus whereas loss of sensory neurotransmitters affected trabecular structures in contralateral, non-fractured bones. Biomechanical properties were mostly similar in all groups. Both nociceptive and resting-state (RS) fMRI revealed significant baseline differences in functional connectivity (FC) between WT and neurotransmitter-deficient mice. The fracture-induced hyperalgesia modulated central nociception and had robust impact on RS FC in all groups. The changes demonstrated in RS FC in fMRI might potentially be used as a bone traumata-induced biomarker regarding fracture healing under pathophysiological musculoskeletal conditions. The findings are of clinical importance and relevance as they advance our understanding of pain during osteoporotic fracture healing and provide a potential imaging biomarker for fracture-related hyperalgesia and its temporal development. Overall, this may help to reduce the development of chronic pain after fracture thereby improving the treatment of osteoporotic fractures.

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Thalamocortical circuits drive remifentanil-induced postoperative hyperalgesia.

Remifentanil-induced hyperalgesia (RIH) is a severe but common postoperative clinical problem with elusive underlying neural mechanisms. Here, we discovered that glutamatergic neurons in the thalamic ventral posterolateral nucleus (VPLGlu) exhibited significantly elevated burst firing accompanied by upregulation of Cav3.1 T-type calcium channel expression and function in RIH model mice. In addition, we identified a glutamatergic neuronal thalamocortical circuit in the VPL projecting to hindlimb primary somatosensory cortex glutamatergic neurons (S1HLGlu) that mediated RIH. In vivo calcium imaging and multi-tetrode recordings revealed heightened S1HLGlu neuronal activity during RIH. Moreover, preoperative suppression of Cav3.1-dependent burst firing in VPLGlu neurons or chemogenetic inhibition of VPLGlu neuronal terminals in the S1HL abolished the increased S1HLGlu neuronal excitability while alleviating RIH. Our findings suggest that remifentanil induces postoperative hyperalgesia by upregulating T-type calcium channel-dependent burst firing in VPLGlu neurons to activate S1HLGlu neurons, thus revealing an ion channel-mediated neural circuit basis for RIH that can guide analgesic development.

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Chronic craniomandibular pain after craniotomy: A long-term clinical study.

Chronic craniomandibular/cervical pain and temporomandibular disorders have not been studied in patients who had a craniotomy several years previously. The aim of the current clinical work was to address these issues.

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Schwann cell stimulation induces functional and structural changes in peripheral nerves.

Signal propagation is the essential function of nerves. Lysophosphatidic acid 18:1 (LPA) allows the selective stimulation of calcium signaling in Schwann cells but not neurons. Here, the time course of slowing and amplitude reduction on compound action potentials due to LPA exposure was observed in myelinated and unmyelinated fibers of the mouse, indicating a clear change of axonal function. Teased nerve fiber imaging showed that Schwann cell activation is also present in axon-attached Schwann cells in freshly isolated peripheral rat nerves. The LPA receptor 1 was primarily localized at the cell extensions in isolated rat Schwann cells, suggesting a role in cell migration. Structural investigation of rat C-fibers demonstrated that LPA leads to an evagination of the axons from their Schwann cells. In A-fibers, the nodes of Ranvier appeared unchanged, but the Schmidt-Lanterman incisures were shortened and myelination reduced. The latter might increase leak current, reducing the potential spread to the next node of Ranvier and explain the changes in conduction velocity. The observed structural changes provide a plausible explanation for the functional changes in myelinated and unmyelinated axons of peripheral nerves and the reported sensory sensations such as itch and pain.

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