I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 2 Mar 2024 - 7 Mar 2024

2024 Mar 07

Mol Psychiatry


CRF regulates pain sensation by enhancement of corticoaccumbal excitatory synaptic transmission.


Zhao W, Yu YM, Wang XY, Xia SH, Ma Y, Tang H, Tao M, Li H, Xu Z, Yang JX, Wu P, Zhang H, Ding HL, Cao JL


Both peripheral and central corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) systems have been implicated in regulating pain sensation. However, compared with the peripheral, the mechanisms underlying central CRF system in pain modulation have not yet been elucidated, especially at the neural circuit level. The corticoaccumbal circuit, a structure rich in CRF receptors and CRF-positive neurons, plays an important role in behavioral responses to stressors including nociceptive stimuli. The present study was designed to investigate whether and how CRF signaling in this circuit regulated pain sensation under physiological and pathological pain conditions. Our studies employed the viral tracing and circuit-, and cell-specific electrophysiological methods to label the CRF-containing circuit from the medial prefrontal cortex to the nucleus accumbens shell (mPFC-NAcS) and record its neuronal propriety. Combining optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulation, neuropharmacological methods, and behavioral tests, we were able to precisely manipulate this circuit and depict its role in regulation of pain sensation. The current study found that the CRF signaling in the NAc shell (NAcS), but not NAc core, was necessary and sufficient for the regulation of pain sensation under physiological and pathological pain conditions. This process was involved in the CRF-mediated enhancement of excitatory synaptic transmission in the NAcS. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the mPFC neurons monosynaptically connected with the NAcS neurons. Chronic pain increased the protein level of CRF in NAcS, and then maintained the persistent NAcS neuronal hyperactivity through enhancement of this monosynaptic excitatory connection, and thus sustained chronic pain behavior. These findings reveal a novel cell- and circuit-based mechanistic link between chronic pain and the mPFC → NAcS circuit and provide a potential new therapeutic target for chronic pain.