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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 May 2022 - 27 May 2022

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 May 24

J Clin Invest

Editor's Pick

The neuronal tyrosine kinase receptor ligand ALKAL2 mediates persistent pain.


Defaye M, Iftinca MC, Gadotti VM, Basso L, Abdullah NS, Cumenal M, Agosti F, Hassan A, Flynn R, Martin J, Soubeyre V, Poulen G, Lonjon N, Vachiery-Lahaye F, Bauchet L, Mery P F, Bourinet E, Zamponi GW, Altier C
J Clin Invest. 2022 May 24.
PMID: 35608912.


The anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase known for its oncogenic potential and involved in the development of the peripheral and central nervous system. ALK receptor ligands, ALKAL1 and ALKAL2 were recently found to promote neuronal differentiation and survival. Here we show that inflammation or injury enhanced ALKAL2 expression in a subset of TRPV1+ sensory neurons. Notably, ALKAL2 was particularly enriched in both mice and human peptidergic nociceptors, yet weakly expressed in non peptidergic, large diameter myelinated neurons or in the brain. Using a co-culture expression system, we found that nociceptors exposed to ALKAL2 exhibited heightened excitability and neurite outgrowth. Intraplantar Complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) or intrathecal infusion of recombinant ALKAL2 led to ALK phosphorylation in the lumbar dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Finally, depletion of ALKAL2 in dorsal root ganglia or blocking ALK with clinically available compounds Crizotinib or Lorlatinib, reversed thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia induced by inflammation or nerve injury, respectively. Overall, our work uncovers the ALKAL2-ALK signaling axis as a central regulator of nociceptor-induced sensitization. We propose that clinically approved ALK inhibitors used for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and neuroblastomas, could be repurposed to treat persistent pain conditions.