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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 18

J Pain


Identification of arginine-vasopressin receptor 1a (Avpr1a/AVPR1A) as a novel candidate gene for chronic visceral pain sheds light on the potential role of enteric neurons in the development of visceral hypersensitivity.


Kader L, Willits A, Meriano S, Christianson JA, La JH, Feng B, Knight B, Kosova G, Deberry J, Coates M, Hyams J, Baumbauer K, Young EE


Chronic abdominal pain in the absence of ongoing disease is the hallmark of disorders of gut-brain interaction (DGBIs), including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While the etiology of DGBIs remains poorly understood, there is evidence that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. In this study, we report the identification and validation of Avpr1a as a novel candidate gene for visceral hypersensitivity (VH), a primary peripheral mechanism underlying abdominal pain in DGBI/IBS. Comparing two C57BL/6 (BL/6) substrains (C57BL/6NTac and C57BL/6J) revealed differential susceptibility to the development of chronic VH following intrarectal zymosan (ZYM) instillation, a validated preclinical model for post-inflammatory IBS. Using whole genome sequencing, we identified a SNP differentiating the two strains in the 5′ intergenic region upstream of Avpr1a, encoding the protein arginine-vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A). We used behavioral, histological, and molecular approaches to identify distal colon-specific gene expression and neuronal hyperresponsiveness covarying with Avpr1a genotype and VH susceptibility. While the two BL/6 substrains did not differ across other gastrointestinal (GI) phenotypes (e.g., fecal water retention), VH-susceptible BL/6NTac mice had higher colonic Avpr1a mRNA and protein expression. These results parallel findings that patients’ colonic Avpr1a mRNA expression corresponded to higher pain ratings. Moreover, neurons of the enteric nervous system were hyperresponsive to the AVPR1A agonist AVP, suggesting a role for enteric neurons in the pathology underlying VH. Taken together, these findings implicate differential regulation of Avpr1a as a novel mechanism of VH-susceptibility as well as a potential therapeutic target specific to VH. PERSPECTIVE: This article presents evidence of Avpr1a as a novel candidate gene for visceral hypersensitivity in a mouse model of irritable bowel syndrome. Avpr1a genotype and/or tissue-specific expression represents a potential biomarker for chronic abdominal pain susceptibility.