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Papers of the Week

Papers: 17 Jun 2023 - 23 Jun 2023

Basic Science, Psychology

Animal Studies, Neurobiology


2023 Jun 20

Mol Neurobiol


Impaired Ventrolateral Periaqueductal Gray-Ventral Tegmental area Pathway Contributes to Chronic Pain-Induced Depression-Like Behavior in Mice.


Lee MT, Peng WH, Wu CC, Kan HW, Wang DW, Teng YN, Ho YC


Chronic pain conditions within clinical populations are correlated with a high incidence of depression, and researchers have reported their high rate of comorbidity. Clinically, chronic pain worsens the prevalence of depression, and depression increases the risk of chronic pain. Individuals suffering from chronic pain and depression respond poorly to available medications, and the mechanisms underlying the comorbidity of chronic pain and depression remain unknown. We used spinal nerve ligation (SNL) in a mouse model to induce comorbid pain and depression. We combined behavioral tests, electrophysiological recordings, pharmacological manipulation, and chemogenetic approaches to investigate the neurocircuitry mechanisms of comorbid pain and depression. SNL elicited tactile hypersensitivity and depression-like behavior, accompanied by increased and decreased glutamatergic transmission in dorsal horn neurons and midbrain ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) neurons, respectively. Intrathecal injection of lidocaine, a sodium channel blocker, and gabapentin ameliorated SNL-induced tactile hypersensitivity and neuroplastic changes in the dorsal horn but not depression-like behavior and neuroplastic alterations in the vlPAG. Pharmacological lesion of vlPAG glutamatergic neurons induced tactile hypersensitivity and depression-like behavior. Chemogenetic activation of the vlPAG-rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) pathway ameliorated SNL-induced tactile hypersensitivity but not SNL-elicited depression-like behavior. However, chemogenetic activation of the vlPAG-ventral tegmental area (VTA) pathway alleviated SNL-produced depression-like behavior but not SNL-induced tactile hypersensitivity. Our study demonstrated that the underlying mechanisms of comorbidity in which the vlPAG acts as a gating hub for transferring pain to depression. Tactile hypersensitivity could be attributed to dysfunction of the vlPAG-RVM pathway, while impairment of the vlPAG-VTA pathway contributed to depression-like behavior.