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Papers of the Week

Papers: 17 Sep 2022 - 23 Sep 2022

2022 Sep 15

J Neurosci

Ventrolateral periaqueductal gray astrocytes regulate nociceptive sensation and emotional motivation in diabetic neuropathic pain.



Diabetic neuropathic pain (DNP) is a diabetes complication experienced by many patients. Ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) neurons are essential mediators of the descending pain modulation system, yet the role of vlPAG astrocytes in DNP remains unclear. The present study applied a multidimensional approach to elucidate the role of these astrocytes in DNP. We verified the activation of astrocytes in different regions of the PAG in male DNP-model rats. We found that only astrocytes in the vlPAG exhibited increased growth. Furthermore, we described differences in vlPAG astrocyte activity at different time points during DNP progression. After the 14th day of modeling, vlPAG astrocytes exhibited obvious activation and morphological changes. Furthermore, activation of Gq-DREADDs in vlPAG astrocytes in naive male rats induced neuropathic pain-like symptoms and pain-related aversion, whereas activation of Gi-DREADDs in vlPAG astrocytes in male DNP-model rats alleviated sensations of pain and promoted pain-related preference behavior. Thus, bidirectional manipulation of vlPAG astrocytes revealed their potential to regulate pain. Surprisingly, activation of Gi-DREADDs in vlPAG astrocytes also mitigated anxiety-like behavior induced by DNP. Thus, our results provide direct support for the hypothesis that vlPAG astrocytes regulate diabetes-associated neuropathic pain and concomitant anxiety-like behavior.Many studies examined the association between the vlPAG and neuropathic pain. However, few studies have focused on the role of vlPAG astrocytes in DNP and DNP-related emotional changes. This work confirmed the role of vlPAG astrocytes in DNP by applying a more direct and robust approach. We utilized chemogenetics to bidirectionally manipulate the activity of vlPAG astrocytes and revealed that vlPAG astrocytes regulate DNP and pain-related behavior. In addition, we discovered that activation of Gi-DREADDs in vlPAG astrocytes alleviated anxiety-like behavior induced by DNP. Taken together, these findings provide new insights into DNP and concomitant anxiety-like behavior and supply new therapeutic targets for treating DNP.