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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jul 2023 - 21 Jul 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, In Silico Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Neuropathic Pain

2023 Jul 14

J Neurosci


Modulation of SK channels via calcium buffering tunes intrinsic excitability of parvalbumin interneurons in neuropathic pain: A computational and experimental investigation.


Ma X, Miraucourt LS, Qiu H, Sharif-Naeini R, Khadra A


Parvalbumin-expressing interneurons (PVINs) play a crucial role within the dorsal horn of the spinal cord by preventing touch inputs from activating pain circuits. In both male and female mice, nerve injury decreases PVINs’ output via mechanisms that are not fully understood. In this study, we show that PVINs from nerve-injured male mice change their firing pattern from tonic to adaptive. To examine the ionic mechanisms responsible for this decreased output, we employed a reparametrized Hodgkin-Huxley (HH) type model of PVINs, which predicted (1) the firing pattern transition is due to an increased contribution of small conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels, enabled by (2) impairment in intracellular calcium buffering systems. Analyzing the dynamics of the HH-type model further demonstrated that a generalized Hopf bifurcation differentiates the two types of state transitions observed in the transient firing of PVINs. Importantly, this predicted mechanism holds true when we embed the PVINs model within the neuronal circuit model of the spinal dorsal horn. To experimentally validate this hypothesized mechanism, we used pharmacological modulators of SK channels and demonstrated that (1) tonic firing PVINs from naïve male mice become adaptive when exposed to an SK channel activator, and (2) adapting PVINs from nerve-injured male mice return to tonic firing upon SK channel blockade. Our work provides important insights into the cellular mechanism underlying the decreased output of PVINs in the spinal dorsal horn after nerve injury and highlights potential pharmacological targets for new and effective treatment approaches to neuropathic pain.Parvalbumin-expressing interneurons (PVINs) exert crucial inhibitory control over Aβ fiber-mediated nociceptive pathways at the spinal dorsal horn. The loss of their inhibitory tone leads to neuropathic symptoms, like mechanical allodynia, via mechanisms that are not fully understood. This study identifies the reduced intrinsic excitability of PVINs as a potential cause for their decreased inhibitory output in nerve-injured condition. Combining computational and experimental approaches, we predict a calcium-dependent mechanism that modulates PVINs’ electrical activity following nerve injury: a depletion of cytosolic calcium buffer allows for the rapid accumulation of intracellular calcium through the active membranes, which in turn potentiates SK channels and impedes spike generation. Our results therefore pinpoint SK channels as potential therapeutic targets for treating neuropathic symptoms.