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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Sep 2019 - 27 Sep 2019

Animal Studies

2019 Sep 24

Sci Signal



Brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulation of T-type Ca channels in sensory neurons contributes to increased peripheral pain sensitivity.



Although brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is implicated in the nociceptive signaling of peripheral sensory neurons, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here, we elucidated the effects of BDNF on the neuronal excitability of trigeminal ganglion (TG) neurons and the pain sensitivity of rats mediated by T-type Ca channels. BDNF reversibly and dose-dependently enhanced T-type channel currents through the activation of tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB). Antagonism of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) but not of its downstream target, the kinase AKT, abolished the BDNF-induced T-type channel response. BDNF application activated p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and this effect was prevented by inhibition of PI3K but not of protein kinase A (PKA). Antagonism of either PI3K or p38 MAPK prevented the BDNF-induced stimulation of PKA activity, whereas PKA inhibition blocked the BDNF-mediated increase in T-type currents. BDNF increased the rate of action potential firing in TG neurons and enhanced the pain sensitivity of rats to mechanical stimuli. Moreover, inhibition of TrkB signaling abolished the increased mechanical sensitivity in a rat model of chronic inflammatory pain, and this effect was attenuated by either T-type channel blockade or knockdown of the channel Ca3.2. Together, our findings indicate that BDNF enhances T-type currents through the stimulation of TrkB coupled to PI3K-p38-PKA signaling, thereby inducing neuronal hyperexcitability of TG neurons and pain hypersensitivity in rats.