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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Apr 2021 - 30 Apr 2021

Animal Studies

2021 Apr 20

J Pain

The persistent pain transcriptome: identification of cells and molecules activated by hyperalgesia.


Sapio MR, Kim JJ, Loydpierson AJ, Maric D, Goto T, Vazquez FA, Dougherty MK, Narasimhan R, Muhly WT, Iadarola MJ, Mannes AJ
J Pain. 2021 Apr 20.
PMID: 33892151.


During persistent pain, the dorsal spinal cord responds to painful inputs from the site of injury, but the molecular modulatory processes have not been comprehensively examined. Using transcriptomics and multiplex in situ hybridization, we identified the most highly regulated receptors and signaling molecules in rat dorsal spinal cord in peripheral inflammatory and post-surgical incisional pain models. We examined a time course of the response including acute (2 hrs) and longer term (2 day) time points after peripheral injury representing the early onset and instantiation of hyperalgesic processes. From this analysis, we identify a key population of superficial dorsal spinal cord neurons marked by somatotopic upregulation of the opioid neuropeptide precursor prodynorphin, and two receptors: the neurokinin 1 receptor, and anaplastic lymphoma kinase. These alterations occur specifically in the glutamatergic subpopulation of superficial dynorphinergic neurons. In addition to specific neuronal gene regulation, both models showed induction of broad transcriptional signatures for tissue remodeling, synaptic rearrangement, and immune signaling defined by complement and interferon induction. These signatures were predominantly induced ipsilateral to tissue injury, implying linkage to primary afferent drive. We present a comprehensive set of gene regulatory events across two models that can be targeted for the development of non-opioid analgesics. PERSPECTIVE: The deadly impact of the opioid crisis and the need to replace morphine and other opioids in clinical practice is well recognized. Embedded within this research is an overarching goal of obtaining foundational knowledge from transcriptomics to search for non-opioid analgesic targets. Developing such analgesics would address unmet clinical needs.