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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Dec 2023 - 29 Dec 2023

2023 Dec 22

Prog Neurobiol


Dissecting neural circuits from rostral ventromedial medulla to spinal trigeminal nucleus bidirectionally modulating craniofacial mechanical sensitivity.


Xue Y, Mo S, Li Y, Cao Y, Xu X, Xie Q


Chronic craniofacial pain is intractable and its mechanisms remain unclarified. The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) plays a crucial role in descending pain facilitation and inhibition. It is unclear how the descending circuits from the RVM to spinal trigeminal nucleus (Sp5) are organized to bidirectionally modulate craniofacial nociception. We used viral tracing, in vivo optogenetics, calcium signaling recording, and chemogenetic manipulations to investigate the structure and function of RVM-Sp5 circuits. We found that most RVM neurons projecting to Sp5 were GABAergic or glutamatergic and facilitated or inhibited craniofacial nociception, respectively. Both GABAergic interneurons and glutamatergic projection neurons in Sp5 received RVM inputs: the former were antinociceptive, whereas the latter were pronociceptive. Furthermore, we demonstrated activation of both GABAergic and glutamatergic Sp5 neurons receiving RVM inputs in inflammation- or dysfunction-induced masseter hyperalgesia. Activating GABAergic Sp5 neurons or inhibiting glutamatergic Sp5 neurons that receive RVM projections reversed masseter hyperalgesia. Our study identifies specific cell types and projections of RVM-Sp5 circuits involved in facilitating or inhibiting craniofacial nociception respectively. Selective manipulation of RVM-Sp5 circuits can be used as potential treatment strategy to relieve chronic craniofacial muscle pain.