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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 Jul 2022 - 22 Jul 2022

Animal Studies

2022 Jul 26

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A



Vesicular nucleotide transporter is a molecular target of eicosapentaenoic acid for neuropathic and inflammatory pain treatment.


Kato Y, Ohsugi K, Fukuno Y, Iwatsuki K, Harada Y, Miyaji T
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Jul 26; 119(30):e2122158119.
PMID: 35858418.


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 (ω-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid, is an essential nutrient that exhibits antiinflammatory, neuroprotective, and cardiovascular-protective activities. Although EPA is used as a nutrient-based pharmaceutical agent or dietary supplement, its molecular target(s) is debatable. Here, we showed that EPA and its metabolites strongly and reversibly inhibit vesicular nucleotide transporter (VNUT), a key molecule for vesicular storage and release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in purinergic chemical transmission. In vitro analysis showed that EPA inhibits human VNUT-mediated ATP uptake at a half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC) of 67 nM, acting as an allosteric modulator through competition with Cl. EPA impaired vesicular ATP release from neurons without affecting the vesicular release of other neurotransmitters. In vivo, mice showed a delay in the onset of neuropathic pain and resistance to both neuropathic and inflammatory pain. EPA potently attenuated neuropathic and inflammatory pain in wild-type mice but not in mice without affecting the basal nociception. The analgesic effect of EPA was canceled by the intrathecal injection of purinoceptor agonists and was stronger than that of existing drugs used for neuropathic pain treatment, with few side effects. Neuropathic pain impaired insulin sensitivity in previous studies, which was improved by EPA in the wild-type mice but not in the mice. Our results showed that VNUT is a molecular target of EPA that attenuates neuropathic and inflammatory pain and insulin resistance. EPA may represent a unique nutrient-based treatment and prevention strategy for neurological, immunological, and metabolic diseases by targeting purinergic chemical transmission.