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Papers: 16 Dec 2023 - 22 Dec 2023

2023 Dec 12

J Neurosci


Constitutive KCC2 cell- and synapse-specifically regulates NMDA receptor activity in the spinal cord.


Huang 黄玉莹 Y, Chen 陈红 H, Shao 邵建英 JY, Zhou 周京京 JJ, Chen 陈少瑞 SR, Pan 潘惠麟 HL


K-Cl cotransporter-2 (KCC2) critically controls neuronal chloride homeostasis and maintains normal synaptic inhibition by GABA and glycine. Nerve injury diminishes synaptic inhibition in the spinal cord via KCC2 impairment. However, how KCC2 regulates nociceptive input to spinal excitatory and inhibitory neurons remains elusive. Here, we show that basal GABA reversal potentials were significantly more depolarized in vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT)-expressing inhibitory neurons than in vesicular glutamate transporter-2 (VGluT2)-expressing excitatory neurons in spinal cords of male and female mice. Strikingly, inhibiting KCC2 with VU0463271 increased currents elicited by puff NMDA and the NMDAR-mediated frequency of mEPSCs in VGluT2, but not in VGAT, dorsal horn neurons. Notably, VU0463271 had no effect on EPSCs monosynaptically evoked from the dorsal root in VGluT2 neurons. Furthermore, VU0463271 augmented α2δ-1-NMDAR interactions and their protein levels in spinal cord synaptosomes. In KO mice, VU0463271 had no effect on puff NMDA currents or the mEPSC frequency in dorsal horn neurons. Disrupting α2δ-1-NMDAR interactions with α2δ-1 C-terminus mimicking peptide diminished VU0463271-induced potentiation in the mEPSC frequency and puff NMDA currents in VGluT2 neurons. Additionally, intrathecal injection of VU0463271 reduced mechanical and thermal thresholds in wild-type mice, but not in KO mice. VU0463271-induced pain hypersensitivity in mice was abrogated by co-treatment with the NMDAR antagonist, pregabalin (an α2δ-1 inhibitory ligand), or α2δ-1 C-terminus mimicking peptide. Our findings suggest that KCC2 preferentially controls presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDAR activity in excitatory dorsal horn neurons. KCC2 impairment preferentially potentiates nociceptive transmission between spinal excitatory interneurons via α2δ-1-bound NMDARs. Impaired function of potassium-chloride cotransporter-2 (KCC2), a key regulator of neuronal inhibition, in the spinal cord plays a major role in neuropathic pain. This study unveils that KCC2 controls spinal nociceptive synaptic strength via NMDA receptors in a cell type- and synapse type-specific manner. KCC2 inhibition preferentially augments presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDA receptor activity in spinal excitatory interneurons via α2δ-1 (previously known as a calcium channel subunit). Importantly, spinal KCC2 impairment triggers pain hypersensitivity through α2δ-1-coupled NMDA receptors. These findings pinpoint the cell and molecular substrates for the reciprocal relationship between spinal synaptic inhibition and excitation in chronic neuropathic pain. Targeting both KCC2 and α2δ-1-NMDA receptor complexes could be an effective strategy in managing neuropathic pain conditions.