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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 Mar 2023 - 10 Mar 2023

Basic Science

Ex Vivo Studies, In Vitro Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2023 Mar 09

J Neurosci


Inhibition of nonsense-mediated decay induces nociceptive sensitization through activation of the integrated stress response.


de la Peña JB, Chase R, Kunder N, Smith PR, Lou TF, Stanowick A, Suresh P, Shukla T, Butcher SE, Price T, Campbell ZT


RNA stability is meticulously controlled. Here, we sought to determine if an essential post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism plays a role in pain. Nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) safeguards against translation of mRNAs that harbor premature termination codons and controls the stability of roughly 10% of typical protein-coding mRNAs. It hinges on the activity of the conserved kinase SMG1. Both SMG1 and its target, UPF1, are expressed in murine dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons. SMG1 protein is present in both the DRG and sciatic nerve. Using high-throughput sequencing, we examined changes in mRNA abundance following inhibition of SMG1. We confirmed multiple NMD stability targets in sensory neurons including ATF4. ATF4 is preferentially translated during the integrated stress response (ISR). This led us to ask if suspension of NMD induces the ISR. Inhibition of NMD increased eIF2-alpha phosphorylation and reduced the abundance of the eIF2-alpha phosphatase constitutive repressor of IF2-alpha phosphorylation (CReP). Finally, we examined the effects of SMG1 inhibition on pain-associated behaviors. Peripheral inhibition of SMG1 results in mechanical hypersensitivity in males and females that persists for several days and priming to a subthreshold dose of PGE2. Priming was fully rescued by a small molecule inhibitor of the ISR. Collectively, our results indicate that suspension of NMD promotes pain through stimulation of the ISR. Nociceptors undergo long-lived changes in their plasticity which may contribute to chronic pain. Translational regulation has emerged as a dominant mechanism in pain. Here, we investigate the role of a major pathway of RNA surveillance called NMD. Modulation of NMD is potentially beneficial for a broad array of diseases caused by frameshift or nonsense mutations. Our results suggest that inhibition of the rate-limiting step of NMD drives behaviors associated with pain through activation of the ISR. This work reveals complex interconnectivity between RNA stability and translational regulation and suggests an important consideration in harnessing the salubrious benefits of NMD disruption.