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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Oct 2022 - 21 Oct 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Oct 17

J Neurosci

HDAC2 in primary sensory neurons constitutively restrains chronic pain by repressing α2δ-1 expression and associated NMDA receptor activity.


Zhang 张吉祥 J, Chen 陈少瑞 S-R, Zhou 周孟华 M-H, Jin 金道忠 D, Chen 陈红 H, Wang 王力 L, Depinho RA, Pan 潘惠麟 H-L
J Neurosci. 2022 Oct 17.
PMID: 36257688.


α2δ-1 (encoded by the gene) is a newly discovered NMDA receptor-interacting protein and is the therapeutic target of gabapentinoids (e.g., gabapentin and pregabalin), frequently used for treating patients with neuropathic pain. Nerve injury causes sustained α2δ-1 upregulation in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG), which promotes NMDA receptor synaptic trafficking and activation in the spinal dorsal horn, a hallmark of chronic neuropathic pain. However, little is known about how nerve injury initiates and maintains the high expression level of α2δ-1 to sustain chronic pain. Here, we show that nerve injury caused histone hyperacetylation and diminished enrichment of histone deacetylase-2 (HDAC2), but not HDAC3, at the promoter in the DRG. Strikingly, knockdown or conditional knockout in DRG neurons in male and female mice consistently induced long-lasting mechanical pain hypersensitivity, which was readily reversed by blocking NMDA receptors, inhibiting α2δ-1 with gabapentin, or disrupting the α2δ-1-NMDA receptor interaction at the spinal cord level. deletion in DRG neurons increased histone acetylation levels at the promoter, upregulated α2δ-1 in the DRG, and potentiated α2δ-1-dependent NMDA receptor activity at primary afferent central terminals in the spinal dorsal horn. Correspondingly, knockdown-induced pain hypersensitivity was blunted in knockout mice. Thus, our findings reveal that HDAC2 functions as a pivotal transcriptional repressor of neuropathic pain via constitutively suppressing α2δ-1 expression and ensuing presynaptic NMDA receptor activity in the spinal cord. HDAC2 enrichment levels at the promoter in DRG neurons constitute a unique epigenetic mechanism that governs acute-to-chronic pain transition.Excess α2δ-1 proteins produced after nerve injury directly interact with glutamate NMDA receptors to potentiate synaptic NMDA receptor activity in the spinal cord, a prominent mechanism of nerve pain. Because α2δ-1 upregulation after nerve injury is long-lasting, gabapentinoids relieve pain symptoms only temporarily. Our study demonstrates for the first time the unexpected role of intrinsic HDAC2 at the α2δ-1 gene promoter in limiting α2δ-1 gene transcription, NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic plasticity, and chronic pain development after nerve injury. These findings challenge the prevailing view about the role of general HDAC activity in promoting chronic pain. Restoring the repressive HDAC2 function and/or reducing histone acetylation at the α2δ-1 gene promoter in primary sensory neurons could lead to long-lasting relief of nerve pain.