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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Nov 2020 - 27 Nov 2020

Animal Studies

2020 Nov 18


Serotonin enhances depolarizing spontaneous fluctuations, excitability, and ongoing activity in isolated rat DRG neurons via 5-HT receptors and cAMP-dependent mechanisms.


Lopez ER, Carbajal A G, Tian J, Bavencoffe A, Zhu MX, Dessauer CW, Walters ET
Neuropharmacology. 2020 Nov 18:108408.
PMID: 33220305.


Ongoing activity in nociceptors, a driver of spontaneous pain, can be generated in dorsal root ganglion neurons in the absence of sensory generator potentials if one or more of three neurophysiological alterations occur – prolonged depolarization of resting membrane potential (RMP), hyperpolarization of action potential (AP) threshold, and/or increased amplitude of depolarizing spontaneous fluctuations of membrane potential (DSFs) to bridge the gap between RMP and AP threshold. Previous work showed that acute, sustained exposure to serotonin (5-HT) hyperpolarized AP threshold and potentiated DSFs, leading to ongoing activity if a separate source of maintained depolarization was present. Cellular signaling pathways that increase DSF amplitude and promote ongoing activity acutely in nociceptors are not known for any neuromodulator. Here, isolated DRG neurons from male rats were used to define the pathway by which low concentrations of 5-HT enhance DSFs, hyperpolarize AP threshold, and promote ongoing activity. A selective 5-HT receptor antagonist blocked these 5-HT-induced hyperexcitable effects, while a selective 5-HT agonist mimicked the effects of 5-HT. Inhibition of cAMP effectors, protein kinase A (PKA) and exchange protein activated by cAMP (EPAC), attenuated 5-HT's hyperexcitable effects, but a blocker of hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels had no significant effect. 5-HT-dependent PKA activation was specific to DRG neurons that bind isolectin B4 (a nonpeptidergic nociceptor marker). 5-HT's effects on AP threshold, DSFs, and ongoing activity were mimicked by a cAMP analog. Sustained exposure to 5-HT promotes ongoing activity in nonpeptidergic nociceptors through the G-coupled 5-HT receptor and downstream cAMP signaling involving both PKA and EPAC.