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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 Feb 2023 - 24 Feb 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

Non-Human Pain


PLoS One




Drosophila pain sensitization and modulation unveiled by a novel pain model and analgesic drugs.


Jang W, Oh M, Cho EH, Baek M, Kim C


In mammals, pain is regulated by the combination of an ascending stimulating and descending inhibitory pain pathway. It remains an intriguing question whether such pain pathways are of ancient origin and conserved in invertebrates. Here we report a new Drosophila pain model and use it to elucidate the pain pathways present in flies. The model employs transgenic flies expressing the human capsaicin receptor TRPV1 in sensory nociceptor neurons, which innervate the whole fly body, including the mouth. Upon capsaicin sipping, the flies abruptly displayed pain-related behaviors such as running away, scurrying around, rubbing vigorously, and pulling at their mouth parts, suggesting that capsaicin stimulated nociceptors in the mouth via activating TRPV1. When reared on capsaicin-containing food, the animals died of starvation, demonstrating the degree of pain experienced. This death rate was reduced by treatment both with NSAIDs and gabapentin, analgesics that inhibit the sensitized ascending pain pathway, and with antidepressants, GABAergic agonists, and morphine, analgesics that strengthen the descending inhibitory pathway. Our results suggest Drosophila to possess intricate pain sensitization and modulation mechanisms similar to mammals, and we propose that this simple, non-invasive feeding assay has utility for high-throughput evaluation and screening of analgesic compounds.