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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jan 2022 - 21 Jan 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Jan 13


Transcription factor Mesenchyme Homeobox Protein 2 (MEOX2) modulates nociceptor function.


Kokotović T, Lenartowicz EM, Langeslag M, Ciotu CI, Fell CW, Scaramuzza A, Fischer M J, Kress M, Penninger JM, Nagy V
FEBS J. 2022 Jan 13.
PMID: 35029322.


Mesenchyme homeobox protein 2 (MEOX2) is a transcription factor involved in mesoderm differentiation, including development of bones, muscles, vasculature and dermatomes. We have previously identified dysregulation of MEOX2 in fibroblasts from Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP) patients, and confirmed that btn, the Drosophila homologue of MEOX2, plays a role in nocifensive responses to noxious heat stimuli. To determine the importance of MEOX2 in the mammalian peripheral nervous system, we used a Meox2 heterozygous (Meox2 ) mouse model to characterize its function in the sensory nervous system, and more specifically, in nociception. MEOX2 is expressed in the mouse dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and spinal cord, and localizes in the nuclei of a subset of sensory neurons. Functional studies of the mouse model, including behavioral, cellular and electrophysiological analyses, showed altered nociception encompassing impaired action potential initiation upon depolarization. Mechanistically, we noted decreased expression of Scn9a and Scn11a genes encoding Na 1.7 and Na 1.9 voltage gated sodium channels, respectively, that are crucial in subthreshold amplification and action potential initiation in nociceptors. Further transcriptomic analyses of Meox2 DRG revealed downregulation of a specific subset of genes including those previously associated with pain perception, such as PENK and NPY. Based on these observations, we propose a novel role of MEOX2 in primary afferent nociceptor neurons for the maintenance of a transcriptional program required for proper perception of acute and inflammatory noxious stimuli.