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Papers: 15 Jun 2024 - 21 Jun 2024

2024 Jun 15

J Pain


Influence of early life stress on the excitability of dynorphin neurons in the adult mouse dorsal horn.


Harbour K, Baccei ML


While early life adversity has been associated with a higher risk of developing chronic pain in adulthood, the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which chronic stress during the neonatal period can persistently sensitize developing nociceptive circuits remain poorly understood. Here we investigate the effects of early life stress (ELS) on synaptic integration and intrinsic excitability in dynorphin-lineage (DYN) interneurons within the adult mouse superficial dorsal horn (SDH) which are important for inhibiting mechanical pain and itch. The administration of neonatal limited bedding between postnatal days (P)2 and P9 evoked sex-dependent effects on spontaneous glutamatergic signaling, as female SDH neurons exhibited a higher amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs) after ELS while mEPSC frequency was reduced in DYN neurons of the male SDH. Furthermore, ELS decreased the frequency of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) selectively in female DYN neurons. As a result, ELS increased the balance of spontaneous excitation vs. inhibition (E:I ratio) in mature DYN neurons of the female, but not male, SDH network. Nonetheless, ELS weakened the total primary afferent-evoked glutamatergic drive onto adult DYN neurons selectively in females, without modifying afferent-evoked inhibitory signaling onto the DYN population. Finally, ELS failed to significantly change the intrinsic membrane excitability of mature DYN neurons in either males or females. Collectively, these data suggest that ELS exerts a long-term influence on the properties of synaptic transmission onto DYN neurons within the adult SDH, which includes a reduction in the overall strength of sensory input onto this important subset of inhibitory interneurons. PERSPECTIVE: This study suggests that chronic stress during the neonatal period influences synaptic function within adult spinal nociceptive circuits in a sex-dependent manner. These findings yield new insight into the potential mechanisms by which early life adversity might shape the maturation of pain pathways in the CNS.