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Classic Papers

Explore Classic Papers of the Week as identified by the PRF editorial team.

2024 Jul 10 - Brain
Editor's Pick

Piezo2 voltage-block regulates mechanical pain sensitivity.

Authors: Sánchez-Carranza O, Chakrabarti S, Kühnemund J, Schwaller F, Bégay V, García-Contreras JA, Wang L, Lewin GR
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PIEZO2 is a trimeric mechanically-gated ion channel expressed by most sensory neurones in the dorsal root ganglia. Mechanosensitive PIEZO2 channels are also genetically required for normal touch sensation in both mice and humans. We previously showed that PIEZO2 channels are also strongly modulated by membrane voltage. Specifically, it is only at very positive voltages that all channels are available for opening by mechanical force. Conversely, most PIEZO2 channels are blocked at normal negative resting membrane potentials. The physiological function of this unusual biophysical property of PIEZO2 channels, however, remained unknown. We characterized the biophysical properties of three PIEZO2 ion channel mutations at an evolutionarily conserved Arginine (R2756). Using genome engineering in mice we generated Piezo2R2756H/R2756H and Piezo2R2756K/R2756K knock-in mice to characterize the physiological consequences of altering PIEZO2 voltage sensitivity in vivo. We measured endogenous mechanosensitive currents in sensory neurones isolated from the dorsal root ganglia and characterized mechanoreceptor and nociceptor function using electrophysiology. Mice were also assessed behaviourally and morphologically. Mutations at the conserved Arginine (R2756) dramatically changed the biophysical properties of the channel relieving voltage block and lowering mechanical thresholds for channel activation. Piezo2R2756H/R2756H and Piezo2R2756K/R2756K knock-in mice that were homozygous for gain of function mutations were viable and were tested for sensory changes. Surprisingly, mechanosensitive currents in nociceptors, neurones that detect noxious mechanical stimuli, were substantially sensitized in Piezo2 knock-in mice, but mechanosensitive currents in most mechanoreceptors that underlie touch sensation were only mildly affected by the same mutations. Single-unit electrophysiological recordings from sensory neurones innervating the glabrous skin revealed that rapidly-adapting mechanoreceptors that innervate Meissner’s corpuscles exhibited slightly decreased mechanical thresholds in Piezo2 knock-in mice. Consistent with measurements of mechanically activated currents in isolated sensory neurones essentially all cutaneous nociceptors, both fast conducting Aδ-mechanonociceptors and unmyelinated C-fibre nociceptors were substantially more sensitive to mechanical stimuli and indeed acquired receptor properties similar to ultrasensitive touch receptors in Piezo2 knock-in mice. Mechanical stimuli also induced enhanced ongoing activity in cutaneous nociceptors in Piezo2 knock-in mice and hyper-sensitive PIEZO2 channels were sufficient alone to drive ongoing activity, even in isolated nociceptive neurones. Consistently, Piezo2 knock-in mice showed substantial behaviourally hypersensitivity to noxious mechanical stimuli. Our data indicate that ongoing activity and sensitization of nociceptors, phenomena commonly found in human chronic pain syndromes, can be driven by relieving the voltage-block of PIEZO2 ion channels. Indeed, membrane depolarization caused by multiple noxious stimuli may sensitize nociceptors by relieving voltage-block of PIEZO2 channels.

2024 Jul 02 - Pain
Editor's Pick

A cellular mechanism contributing to pain-induced analgesia.

Authors: Franciosa F, Acuña MA, Nevian NE, Nevian T
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The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) plays a crucial role in the perception of pain. It is consistently activated by noxious stimuli and its hyperactivity in chronic pain indicates plasticity in the local neuronal network. However, the way persistent pain effects and modifies different neuronal cell types in the ACC and how this contributes to sensory sensitization is not completely understood. This study confirms the existence of 2 primary subtypes of pyramidal neurons in layer 5 of the rostral, agranular ACC, which we could classify as intratelencephalic (IT) and cortico-subcortical (SC) projecting neurons, similar to other cortical brain areas. Through retrograde labeling, whole-cell patch-clamp recording, and morphological analysis, we thoroughly characterized their different electrophysiological and morphological properties. When examining the effects of peripheral inflammatory pain on these neuronal subtypes, we observed time-dependent plastic changes in excitability. During the acute phase, both subtypes exhibited reduced excitability, which normalized to pre-inflammatory levels after day 7. Daily conditioning with nociceptive stimuli during this period induced an increase in excitability specifically in SC neurons, which was correlated with a decrease in mechanical sensitization. Subsequent inhibition of the activity of SC neurons projecting to the periaqueductal gray with in vivo chemogenetics, resulted in reinstatement of the hypersensitivity. Accordingly, it was sufficient to enhance the excitability of these neurons chemogenetically in the inflammatory pain condition to induce hypoalgesia. These findings suggest a cell type-specific effect on the descending control of nociception and a cellular mechanism for pain-induced analgesia. Furthermore, increased excitability in this neuronal population is hypoalgesic rather than hyperalgesic.


2024 Jul 05 - Science
Editor's Pick

Trigeminal ganglion neurons are directly activated by influx of CSF solutes in a migraine model.

Authors: Kaag Rasmussen M, Møllgård K, Bork PAR, Weikop P, Esmail T, Drici L, Wewer Albrechtsen NJ, Carlsen JF, Huynh NPT, Ghitani N, Mann M, Goldman SA, Mori Y, Chesler AT, Nedergaard M
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Classical migraine patients experience aura, which is transient neurological deficits associated with cortical spreading depression (CSD), preceding headache attacks. It is not currently understood how a pathological event in cortex can affect peripheral sensory neurons. In this study, we show that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows into the trigeminal ganglion, establishing nonsynaptic signaling between brain and trigeminal cells. After CSD, ~11% of the CSF proteome is altered, with up-regulation of proteins that directly activate receptors in the trigeminal ganglion. CSF collected from animals exposed to CSD activates trigeminal neurons in naïve mice in part by CSF-borne calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). We identify a communication pathway between the central and peripheral nervous system that might explain the relationship between migrainous aura and headache.


2024 Jul 03 - Nature
Editor's Pick

A µ-opioid receptor modulator that works cooperatively with naloxone.

Authors: O'Brien ES, Rangari VA, El Daibani A, Eans SO, Hammond HR, White E, Wang H, Shiimura Y, Krishna Kumar K, Jiang Q, Appourchaux K, Huang W, Zhang C, Kennedy BJ, Mathiesen JM, Che T, McLaughlin JP, Majumdar S, Kobilka BK
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The µ-opioid receptor (µOR) is a well-established target for analgesia, yet conventional opioid receptor agonists cause serious adverse effects, notably addiction and respiratory depression. These factors have contributed to the current opioid overdose epidemic driven by fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid. µOR negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) may serve as useful tools in preventing opioid overdose deaths, but promising chemical scaffolds remain elusive. Here we screened a large DNA-encoded chemical library against inactive µOR, counter-screening with active, G-protein and agonist-bound receptor to ‘steer’ hits towards conformationally selective modulators. We discovered a NAM compound with high and selective enrichment to inactive µOR that enhances the affinity of the key opioid overdose reversal molecule, naloxone. The NAM works cooperatively with naloxone to potently block opioid agonist signalling. Using cryogenic electron microscopy, we demonstrate that the NAM accomplishes this effect by binding a site on the extracellular vestibule in direct contact with naloxone while stabilizing a distinct inactive conformation of the extracellular portions of the second and seventh transmembrane helices. The NAM alters orthosteric ligand kinetics in therapeutically desirable ways and works cooperatively with low doses of naloxone to effectively inhibit various morphine-induced and fentanyl-induced behavioural effects in vivo while minimizing withdrawal behaviours. Our results provide detailed structural insights into the mechanism of negative allosteric modulation of the µOR and demonstrate how this can be exploited in vivo.


2024 Jun 25 - Brain
Editor's Pick

Interplay between subthalamic nucleus and spinal cord controls parkinsonian nociceptive disorders.

Authors: Charles KA, Molpeceres Sierra E, Bouali-Benazzouz R, Tibar H, Oudaha K, Naudet F, Duveau A, Fossat P, Benazzouz A
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Pain is a non-motor symptom that impairs quality of life in Parkinson’s patients. Pathological nociceptive hypersensitivity in patients could be due to changes in the processing of somatosensory information at the level of the basal ganglia, including the subthalamic nucleus (STN), but the underlying mechanisms are not yet defined. Here, we investigated the interaction between the STN and the dorsal horn of the spinal cord (DHSC), by first examining the nature of STN neurons that respond to peripheral nociceptive stimulation and the nature of their responses under normal and pathological conditions. Next, we studied the consequences of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the STN on the electrical activity of DHSC neurons. Then, we investigated whether the therapeutic effect of STN-DBS would be mediated by the brainstem descending pathway involving the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM). Finally, to better understand how the STN modulates allodynia, we used Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) expressed in the STN.


2024 Jun 24 - Brain Behav Immun
Editor's Pick

Social transmission of inflammation in mice.

Authors: Castany S, Batista Da Rosa P, Shionoya K, Blomqvist A, Engblom D
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The ability to detect and respond to sickness in others promotes survival. Here we show that mouse dams respond to immune challenged pups by mirroring their inflammatory response. Dams with pups subjected to immune challenge displayed a marked induction of inflammatory mediators in both the brain and the periphery, accompanied by an increase in maternal behaviors and corticosterone levels. This social transmission of inflammation did not require physical contact, and it contributed to the stress hormone response in the dams. In adult dyads, interaction with an immune challenged cagemate did not elicit robust inflammatory signaling but induced an increased responsiveness to a subsequent immune challenge. The identification of social transmission of inflammation, or inflammatory responsiveness, may open new avenues for research on social behavior, just like the description of similar phenomena such as observational fear and transmitted pain has done.


2024 Jun 24 - Brain Behav Immun
Editor's Pick

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor contributes to activity-induced muscle pain in male but not female mice.

Authors: Hayashi K, Lesnak JB, Plumb AN, Janowski AJ, Smith AF, Hill JK, Sluka KA
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Activity-induced muscle pain increases interleukin-1β (IL-1β) release from muscle macrophages and the development of hyperalgesia is prevented by blockade of IL-1β in muscle. Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released from sensory neurons in response to IL-1β and mediates both inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Thus, we hypothesize that in activity-induced pain, fatigue metabolites combined with IL-1β activate sensory neurons to increase BDNF release, peripherally in muscle and centrally in the spinal dorsal horn, to produce hyperalgesia. We tested the effect of intrathecal or intramuscular injection of BDNF-Tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) inhibitors, ANA-12 or TrkB-Fc, on development of activity-induced pain. Both inhibitors prevented the hyperalgesia when given before or 24hr after induction of the model in male but not female mice. BDNF messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and protein were significantly increased in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) 24hr after induction of the model in both male and female mice. Blockade of IL-1β in muscle had no effect on the increased BNDF mRNA observed in the activity-induced pain model, while IL-1β applied to cultured DRG significantly induced BDNF expression, suggesting IL-1β is sufficient but not necessary to induce BNDF. Thus, fatigue metabolites, combined with IL-1β, upregulate BDNF in primary DRG neurons in both male and female mice, but contribute to activity-induced pain only in males.


2024 Jul 02 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Editor's Pick

Parvalbumin gates chronic pain through the modulation of firing patterns in inhibitory neurons.

Authors: Qiu H, Miraucourt LS, Petitjean H, Xu M, Theriault C, Davidova A, Soubeyre V, Poulen G, Lonjon N, Vachiery-Lahaye F, Bauchet L, Levesque-Damphousse P, Estall JL, Bourinet E, Sharif-Naeini R
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Spinal cord dorsal horn inhibition is critical to the processing of sensory inputs, and its impairment leads to mechanical allodynia. How this decreased inhibition occurs and whether its restoration alleviates allodynic pain are poorly understood. Here, we show that a critical step in the loss of inhibitory tone is the change in the firing pattern of inhibitory parvalbumin (PV)-expressing neurons (PVNs). Our results show that PV, a calcium-binding protein, controls the firing activity of PVNs by enabling them to sustain high-frequency tonic firing patterns. Upon nerve injury, PVNs transition to adaptive firing and decrease their PV expression. Interestingly, decreased PV is necessary and sufficient for the development of mechanical allodynia and the transition of PVNs to adaptive firing. This transition of the firing pattern is due to the recruitment of calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels, and blocking them during chronic pain restores normal tonic firing and alleviates chronic pain. Our findings indicate that PV is essential for controlling the firing pattern of PVNs and for preventing allodynia. Developing approaches to manipulate these mechanisms may lead to different strategies for chronic pain relief.


2024 Jun 20 - Nat Commun
Editor's Pick

Sensory ASIC3 channel exacerbates psoriatic inflammation via a neurogenic pathway in female mice.

Authors: Huang C, Sun PY, Jiang Y, Liu Y, Liu Z, Han SL, Wang BS, Huang YX, Ren AR, Lu JF, Jiang Q, Li Y, Zhu MX, Yao Z, Tian Y, Qi X, Li WG, Xu TL
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Psoriasis is an immune-mediated skin disease associated with neurogenic inflammation, but the underlying molecular mechanism remains unclear. We demonstrate here that acid-sensing ion channel 3 (ASIC3) exacerbates psoriatic inflammation through a sensory neurogenic pathway. Global or nociceptor-specific Asic3 knockout (KO) in female mice alleviates imiquimod-induced psoriatic acanthosis and type 17 inflammation to the same extent as nociceptor ablation. However, ASIC3 is dispensable for IL-23-induced psoriatic inflammation that bypasses the need for nociceptors. Mechanistically, ASIC3 activation induces the activity-dependent release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) from sensory neurons to promote neurogenic inflammation. Botulinum neurotoxin A and CGRP antagonists prevent sensory neuron-mediated exacerbation of psoriatic inflammation to similar extents as Asic3 KO. In contrast, replenishing CGRP in the skin of Asic3 KO mice restores the inflammatory response. These findings establish sensory ASIC3 as a critical constituent in psoriatic inflammation, and a promising target for neurogenic inflammation management.


2024 Jun 18 - J Clin Invest
Editor's Pick

Peripheral gating of mechanosensation by glial diazepam binding inhibitor.

Authors: Li X, Prudente AS, Prato V, Guo X, Hao H, Jones F, Figoli S, Mullen P, Wang Y, Tonello R, Lee SH, Shah S, Maffei B, Berta T, Du X, Gamper N
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We report that diazepam binding inhibitor (DBI) is a glial messenger mediating satellite glia-sensory neuron crosstalk in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG). DBI is highly expressed in satellite glia cells (SGCs) of mice, rat and human, but not in sensory neurons or most other DRG-resident cells. Knockdown of DBI results in a robust mechanical hypersensitivity without major effects on other sensory modalities. In vivo overexpression of DBI in SGCs reduces sensitivity to mechanical stimulation and alleviates mechanical allodynia in neuropathic and inflammatory pain models. We further show that DBI acts as an unconventional agonist and positive allosteric modulator at the neuronal GABAA receptors, particularly strongly effecting those with a high-affinity benzodiazepine binding site. Such receptors are selectively expressed by a subpopulation of mechanosensitive DRG neurons and these are also more enwrapped with DBI-expressing glia, as compared to other DRG neurons, suggesting a mechanism for specific effect of DBI on mechanosensation. These findings identified a new, peripheral neuron-glia communication mechanism modulating pain signalling, which can be targeted therapeutically.