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2023 Nov 22 - Cell
Editor's Pick

S. aureus drives itch and scratch-induced skin damage through a V8 protease-PAR1 axis.

Authors: Deng L, Costa F, Blake KJ, Choi S, Chandrabalan A, Yousuf MS, Shiers S, Dubreuil D, Vega-Mendoza D, Rolland C, Deraison C, Voisin T, Bagood MD, Wesemann L, Frey AM, Palumbo JS, Wainger BJ, Gallo RL, Leyva-Castillo JM, Vergnolle N, Price TJ, Ramachandran R, Horswill AR, Chiu IM
Read Abstract
Itch is an unpleasant sensation that evokes a desire to scratch. The skin barrier is constantly exposed to microbes and their products. However, the role of microbes in itch generation is unknown. Here, we show that Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial pathogen associated with itchy skin diseases, directly activates pruriceptor sensory neurons to drive itch. Epicutaneous S. aureus exposure causes robust itch and scratch-induced damage. By testing multiple isogenic bacterial mutants for virulence factors, we identify the S. aureus serine protease V8 as a critical mediator in evoking spontaneous itch and alloknesis. V8 cleaves proteinase-activated receptor 1 (PAR1) on mouse and human sensory neurons. Targeting PAR1 through genetic deficiency, small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown, or pharmacological blockade decreases itch and skin damage caused by V8 and S. aureus exposure. Thus, we identify a mechanism of action for a pruritogenic bacterial factor and demonstrate the potential of inhibiting V8-PAR1 signaling to treat itch.

2023 Nov 20 - J Neurosci
Editor's Pick

Chronic morphine induces adaptations in opioid receptor signaling in a thalamo-striatal circuit that are location-dependent, sex-specific and regulated by mu opioid receptor phosphorylation.

Authors: Jaeckel ER, Herrera YN, Schulz S, Birdsong WT
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Chronic opioid exposure induces tolerance to the pain-relieving effects of opioids but sensitization to some other effects. While the occurrence of these adaptations is well-understood, the underlying cellular mechanisms are less clear. This study aimed to determine how chronic treatment with morphine, a prototypical opioid agonist, induced adaptations to subsequent morphine signaling in different subcellular contexts. Opioids acutely inhibit glutamatergic transmission from medial thalamic (MThal) inputs to the dorsomedial striatum (DMS) via activity at μ-opioid receptors (MORs). MORs are present in somatic and presynaptic compartments of MThal neurons terminating in the DMS. We investigated the effects of chronic morphine treatment on subsequent morphine signaling at MThal-DMS synapses and MThal cell bodies in male and female mice. Surprisingly, chronic morphine treatment increased subsequent morphine inhibition of MThal-DMS synaptic transmission (morphine facilitation) in male, but not female, mice. At MThal cell bodies, chronic morphine treatment decreased subsequent morphine activation of potassium conductance (morphine tolerance) in both male and female mice. In knockin mice expressing phosphorylation-deficient MORs, chronic morphine treatment resulted in tolerance to, rather than facilitation of, subsequent morphine signaling at MThal-DMS terminals, suggesting phosphorylation-deficiency unmasks adaptations that counter the facilitation observed at presynaptic terminals in wild-type mice. The results of this study suggest that the effects of chronic morphine exposure are not ubiquitous; rather adaptations in MOR function may be determined by multiple factors such as subcellular receptor distribution, influence of local circuitry and sex. Repeated opioid use causes tolerance to their pain-relieving effects but can exacerbate some undesirable effects limiting their clinical utility. A detailed understanding of the physiological adaptations that contribute to the development of tolerance is critical to develop mitigation strategies. This study found that within medial thalamic projection neurons, chronic morphine treatment induced adaptations that were not ubiquitous. Instead, prior morphine exposure increased morphine effects at thalamic terminals in the dorsomedial striatum only in male mice, but decreased morphine effects at medial thalamic cell bodies in both sexes. In mice lacking phosphorylation sites on MOR, chronic morphine treatment decreased, rather than increased, morphine effects at thalamic terminals in the dorsomedial striatum, implicating receptor phosphorylation in driving adaptations observed in wild-type mice.

2023 Nov 21 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Editor's Pick

A peptidomimetic modulator of the Ca2.2 N-type calcium channel for chronic pain.

Authors: Gomez K, Santiago U, Nelson TS, Allen HN, Calderon-Rivera A, Hestehave S, Rodríguez Palma EJ, Zhou Y, Duran P, Loya-Lopez S, Zhu E, Kumar U, Shields R, Koseli E, McKiver B, Giuvelis D, Zuo W, Inyang KE, Dorame A, Chefdeville A, Ran D, Perez-Miller S, Lu Y, Liu X, Handoko , Arora PS, Patek M, Moutal A, Khanna M, Hu H, Laumet G, King T, Wang J, Damaj MI, Korczeniewska OA, Camacho CJ, Khanna R
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Transmembrane Ca2.2 (N-type) voltage-gated calcium channels are genetically and pharmacologically validated, clinically relevant pain targets. Clinical block of Ca2.2 (e.g., with Prialt/Ziconotide) or indirect modulation [e.g., with gabapentinoids such as Gabapentin (GBP)] mitigates chronic pain but is encumbered by side effects and abuse liability. The cytosolic auxiliary subunit collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) targets Ca2.2 to the sensory neuron membrane and regulates their function via an intrinsically disordered motif. A CRMP2-derived peptide (CBD3) uncouples the Ca2.2-CRMP2 interaction to inhibit calcium influx, transmitter release, and pain. We developed and applied a molecular dynamics approach to identify the dipeptide in CBD3 as the anchoring Ca2.2 motif and designed pharmacophore models to screen 27 million compounds on the open-access server ZincPharmer. Of 200 curated hits, 77 compounds were assessed using depolarization-evoked calcium influx in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons. Nine small molecules were tested electrophysiologically, while one (CBD3063) was also evaluated biochemically and behaviorally. CBD3063 uncoupled Ca2.2 from CRMP2, reduced membrane Ca2.2 expression and Ca currents, decreased neurotransmission, reduced fiber photometry-based calcium responses in response to mechanical stimulation, and reversed neuropathic and inflammatory pain across sexes in two different species without changes in sensory, sedative, depressive, and cognitive behaviors. CBD3063 is a selective, first-in-class, CRMP2-based peptidomimetic small molecule, which allosterically regulates Ca2.2 to achieve analgesia and pain relief without negative side effect profiles. In summary, CBD3063 could potentially be a more effective alternative to GBP for pain relief.

2023 Nov 09 - Neuron
Editor's Pick

Absence of paresthesia during high-rate spinal cord stimulation reveals importance of synchrony for sensations evoked by electrical stimulation.

Authors: Sagalajev B, Zhang T, Abdollahi N, Yousefpour N, Medlock L, Al-Basha D, Ribeiro-da-Silva A, Esteller R, Ratté S, Prescott SA
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Electrically activating mechanoreceptive afferents inhibits pain. However, paresthesia evoked by spinal cord stimulation (SCS) at 40-60 Hz becomes uncomfortable at high pulse amplitudes, limiting SCS “dosage.” Kilohertz-frequency SCS produces analgesia without paresthesia and is thought, therefore, not to activate afferent axons. We show that paresthesia is absent not because axons do not spike but because they spike asynchronously. In a pain patient, selectively increasing SCS frequency abolished paresthesia and epidurally recorded evoked compound action potentials (ECAPs). Dependence of ECAP amplitude on SCS frequency was reproduced in pigs, rats, and computer simulations and is explained by overdrive desynchronization: spikes desychronize when axons are stimulated faster than their refractory period. Unlike synchronous spikes, asynchronous spikes fail to produce paresthesia because their transmission to somatosensory cortex is blocked by feedforward inhibition. Our results demonstrate how stimulation frequency impacts synchrony based on axon properties and how synchrony impacts sensation based on circuit properties.

2023 Nov 15 - Sci Transl Med
Editor's Pick

Tension-activated nanofiber patches delivering an anti-inflammatory drug improve repair in a goat intervertebral disc herniation model.

Authors: Peredo AP, Gullbrand SE, Friday CS, Orozco BS, Dehghani B, Jenk AC, Bonnevie ED, Hilliard RL, Zlotnick HM, Dodge GR, Lee D, Engiles JB, Hast MW, Schaer TP, Smith HE, Mauck RL
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Conventional microdiscectomy treatment for intervertebral disc herniation alleviates pain but does not repair the annulus fibrosus, resulting in a high incidence of recurrent herniation and persistent dysfunction. The lack of repair and the acute inflammation that arise after injury can further compromise the disc and result in disc-wide degeneration in the long term. To address this clinical need, we developed tension-activated repair patches (TARPs) for annulus fibrosus repair and local delivery of the anti-inflammatory factor anakinra (a recombinant interleukin-1 receptor antagonist). TARPs transmit physiologic strain to mechanically activated microcapsules embedded within the patch, which release encapsulated bioactive molecules in direct response to spinal loading. Mechanically activated microcapsules carrying anakinra were loaded into TARPs, and the effects of TARP-mediated annular repair and anakinra delivery were evaluated in a goat model of annular injury in the cervical spine. TARPs integrated with native tissue and provided structural reinforcement at the injury site that prevented aberrant disc-wide remodeling resulting from detensioning of the annular fibrosus. The delivery of anakinra by TARP implantation increased matrix deposition and retention at the injury site and improved maintenance of disc extracellular matrix. Anakinra delivery additionally attenuated the inflammatory response associated with TARP implantation, decreasing osteolysis in adjacent vertebrae and preserving disc cellularity and matrix organization throughout the annulus fibrosus. These results demonstrate the therapeutic potential of TARPs for the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation.

2023 Nov 14 - Pain
Editor's Pick

A phenotypic screening platform for chronic pain therapeutics using all-optical electrophysiology.

Authors: Liu PW, Zhang H, Werley CA, Pichler M, Ryan SJ, Lewarch CL, Jacques J, Grooms J, Ferrante J, Li G, Zhang D, Bremmer N, Barnett A, Chantre R, Elder AE, Cohen AE, Williams LA, Dempsey GT, McManus OB
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Chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA) remains an intractable problem with few effective treatment options. New approaches are needed to model the disease biology and to drive discovery of therapeutics. We present an in vitro model of OA pain, where dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons were sensitized by a defined mixture of disease-relevant inflammatory mediators, here called Sensitizing PAin Reagent Composition or SPARC. Osteoarthritis-SPARC components showed synergistic or additive effects when applied in combination and induced pain phenotypes in vivo. To measure the effect of OA-SPARC on neural firing in a scalable format, we used a custom system for high throughput all-optical electrophysiology. This system enabled light-based membrane voltage recordings from hundreds of neurons in parallel with single cell and single action potential resolution and a throughput of up to 500,000 neurons per day. A computational framework was developed to construct a multiparameter OA-SPARC neuronal phenotype and to quantitatively assess phenotype reversal by candidate pharmacology. We screened ∼3000 approved drugs and mechanistically focused compounds, yielding data from over 1.2 million individual neurons with detailed assessment of functional OA-SPARC phenotype rescue and orthogonal “off-target” effects. Analysis of confirmed hits revealed diverse potential analgesic mechanisms including ion channel modulators and other mechanisms including MEK inhibitors and tyrosine kinase modulators. Our results suggest that the Raf-MEK-ERK axis in DRG neurons may integrate the inputs from multiple upstream inflammatory mediators found in osteoarthritis patient joints, and MAPK pathway activation in DRG neurons may contribute to chronic pain in patients with osteoarthritis.

2023 Nov 13 - Nat Rev Neurol
Editor's Pick

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension: a step change in understanding the disease mechanisms.

Authors: Yiangou A, Mollan SP, Sinclair AJ
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The understanding of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) has evolved over the past few years. Previously, IIH was considered a disease exclusively affecting the neuro-ophthalmic axis, characterized by raised intracranial pressure, headache and papilloedema, and resulting in the risk of severe and permanent visual loss and life-changing disabling headaches. Recent advances have begun to redefine IIH as a probable metabolic disease involving a range of systemic manifestations. More than 95% of individuals affected by the disease are women of reproductive age with obesity. The incidence is rapidly rising and parallels the escalating worldwide obesity rates. Contemporary insights identify associations with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and a twofold increased risk of cardiovascular disease in excess of that driven by obesity alone. Adipose distribution in people with IIH, like that in other metabolic diseases, is preferentially centripetal and is associated with changes in intracranial pressure. Evidence now demonstrates adipose tissue dysfunction in people with IIH, involving transcriptional and metabolic priming for lipogenesis and weight gain. Hormonal perturbations are also observed, including a unique phenotype of androgen excess that promotes cerebrospinal fluid secretion. Knowledge of these additional disease features is driving research into novel therapeutic targets and altering the approach to multidisciplinary care.

2023 Oct 31 - Cell Rep Med
Editor's Pick

Inflammation-induced mitochondrial and metabolic disturbances in sensory neurons control the switch from acute to chronic pain.

Authors: Willemen HLDM, Santos Ribeiro PS, Broeks M, Meijer N, Versteeg S, Tiggeler A, de Boer TP, Małecki JM, Falnes PØ, Jans J, Eijkelkamp N
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Pain often persists in patients with an inflammatory disease, even when inflammation has subsided. The molecular mechanisms leading to this failure in pain resolution and the transition to chronic pain are poorly understood. Mitochondrial dysfunction in sensory neurons links to chronic pain, but its role in resolution of inflammatory pain is unclear. Transient inflammation causes neuronal plasticity, called hyperalgesic priming, which impairs resolution of pain induced by a subsequent inflammatory stimulus. We identify that hyperalgesic priming in mice increases the expression of a mitochondrial protein (ATPSc-KMT) and causes mitochondrial and metabolic disturbances in sensory neurons. Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration, knockdown of ATPSCKMT expression, or supplementation of the affected metabolite is sufficient to restore resolution of inflammatory pain and prevents chronic pain development. Thus, inflammation-induced mitochondrial-dependent disturbances in sensory neurons predispose to a failure in resolution of inflammatory pain and development of chronic pain.

2023 Nov 09 - Nat Commun
Editor's Pick

Epigenetic regulation of beta-endorphin synthesis in hypothalamic arcuate nucleus neurons modulates neuropathic pain in a rodent pain model.

Authors: Tao Y, Zhang Y, Jin X, Hua N, Liu H, Qi R, Huang Z, Sun Y, Jiang D, Snutch TP, Jiang X, Tao J
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Although beta-endorphinergic neurons in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) synthesize beta-endorphin (β-EP) to alleviate nociceptive behaviors, the underlying regulatory mechanisms remain unknown. Here, we elucidated an epigenetic pathway driven by microRNA regulation of β-EP synthesis in ARC neurons to control neuropathic pain. In pain-injured rats miR-203a-3p was the most highly upregulated miRNA in the ARC. A similar increase was identified in the cerebrospinal fluid of trigeminal neuralgia patients. Mechanistically, we found histone deacetylase 9 was downregulated following nerve injury, which decreased deacetylation of histone H3 lysine-18, facilitating the binding of NR4A2 transcription factor to the miR-203a-3p gene promoter, thereby upregulating miR-203a-3p expression. Further, increased miR-203a-3p was found to maintain neuropathic pain by targeting proprotein convertase 1, an endopeptidase necessary for the cleavage of proopiomelanocortin, the precursor of β-EP. The identified mechanism may provide an avenue for the development of new therapeutic targets for neuropathic pain treatment.

2023 Nov 03 - Sci Adv
Editor's Pick

4E-BP1-dependent translation in nociceptors controls mechanical hypersensitivity via TRIM32/type I interferon signaling.

Authors: Wong C, Tavares-Ferreira D, Thörn Perez C, Sharif B, Uttam S, Amiri M, Lister KC, Hooshmandi M, Nguyen V, Séguéla P, Sonenberg N, Price TJ, Gkogkas CG, Khoutorsky A
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Activation of the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) contributes to the development of chronic pain. However, the specific mechanisms by which mTORC1 causes hypersensitivity remain elusive. The eukaryotic initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1) is a key mTORC1 downstream effector that represses translation initiation. Here, we show that nociceptor-specific deletion of 4E-BP1, mimicking activation of mTORC1-dependent translation, is sufficient to cause mechanical hypersensitivity. Using translating ribosome affinity purification in nociceptors lacking 4E-BP1, we identified a pronounced translational up-regulation of tripartite motif-containing protein 32 (TRIM32), an E3 ubiquitin ligase that promotes interferon signaling. Down-regulation of TRIM32 in nociceptors or blocking type I interferon signaling reversed the mechanical hypersensitivity in mice lacking 4E-BP1. Furthermore, nociceptor-specific ablation of TRIM32 alleviated mechanical hypersensitivity caused by tissue inflammation. These results show that mTORC1 in nociceptors promotes hypersensitivity via 4E-BP1-dependent up-regulation of TRIM32/interferon signaling and identify TRIM32 as a therapeutic target in inflammatory pain.