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Papers of the Week

Papers: 14 May 2022 - 20 May 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 May 13


Astrocytic PTEN regulates neuropathic pain by facilitating HMGCR-dependent cholesterol biosynthesis.


Fang Y, Cui H, Liu F, Su S, Wang T, Yuan B, Xie Y, Ma C
Pain. 2022 May 13.
PMID: 35559917.


Recent studies have noted the role of the phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) in developing neuropathic pain, but the underlying mechanisms are obscure. We found that PTEN was mainly expressed in astrocytes in the rat spinal cord and dramatically downregulated after chronic constriction injury (CCI). Intrathecal injection of a PTEN inhibitor induced pain-related behaviors in naïve rats. In contrast, administration of a PTEN protector effectively mitigated CCI-induced pain. Adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated overexpression of astrocytic PTEN in the spinal cord reduced glial activation and neuroinflammation and subsequently alleviated pain-related behaviors. Importantly, astrocyte-specific PTEN-knockout (Pten conditional knockout, Pten CKO) mice showed nociceptive sensitization and glial activation. Proteomic analysis revealed that PTEN overexpression upregulated at least 7 enzymes in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway and the total cholesterol level in the spinal cord of CCI rats. Furthermore, PTEN directly interacted with enzymes, including 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR), in the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway. Astrocytic HMGCR overexpression alleviated both CCI-induced pain and mechanical allodynia in Pten CKO mice. Finally, cholesterol replenishment attenuated CCI-induced pain and suppressed spinal glial activation. Taken together, these findings imply that spinal astrocytic PTEN plays a beneficial role in CCI-induced pain by regulating cholesterol biosynthesis, and increased level of PTEN may accelerate cholesterol biosynthesis and reduce glial activation, thereby alleviating neuropathic pain. Recovery of PTEN or cholesterol might be an effective therapeutic strategy for neuropathic pain.