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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Feb 2019 - 1 Mar 2019

Animal Studies


PLoS One



Transcription factor Sp4 is required for hyperalgesic state persistence.


Sheehan K, Lee J, Chong J, Zavala K, Sharma M, Philipsen S, Maruyama T, Xu Z, Guan Z, Eilers H, Kawamata T, Schumacher M
PLoS One. 2019; 14(2):e0211349.
PMID: 30811405.


Understanding how painful hypersensitive states develop and persist beyond the initial hours to days is critically important in the effort to devise strategies to prevent and/or reverse chronic painful states. Changes in nociceptor transcription can alter the abundance of nociceptive signaling elements, resulting in longer-term change in nociceptor phenotype. As a result, sensitized nociceptive signaling can be further amplified and nocifensive behaviors sustained for weeks to months. Building on our previous finding that transcription factor Sp4 positively regulates the expression of the pain transducing channel TRPV1 in Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) neurons, we sought to determine if Sp4 serves a broader role in the development and persistence of hypersensitive states in mice. We observed that more than 90% of Sp4 staining DRG neurons were small to medium sized, primarily unmyelinated (NF200 neg) and the majority co-expressed nociceptor markers TRPV1 and/or isolectin B4 (IB4). Genetically modified mice (Sp4+/-) with a 50% reduction of Sp4 showed a reduction in DRG TRPV1 mRNA and neuronal responses to the TRPV1 agonist-capsaicin. Importantly, Sp4+/- mice failed to develop persistent inflammatory thermal hyperalgesia, showing a reversal to control values after 6 hours. Despite a reversal of inflammatory thermal hyperalgesia, there was no difference in CFA-induced hindpaw swelling between CFA Sp4+/- and CFA wild type mice. Similarly, Sp4+/- mice failed to develop persistent mechanical hypersensitivity to hind-paw injection of NGF. Although Sp4+/- mice developed hypersensitivity to traumatic nerve injury, Sp4+/- mice failed to develop persistent cold or mechanical hypersensitivity to the platinum-based chemotherapeutic agent oxaliplatin, a non-traumatic model of neuropathic pain. Overall, Sp4+/- mice displayed a remarkable ability to reverse the development of multiple models of persistent inflammatory and neuropathic hypersensitivity. This suggests that Sp4 functions as a critical control point for a network of genes that conspire in the persistence of painful hypersensitive states.