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Papers of the Week

Papers: 24 Jun 2023 - 30 Jun 2023

Basic Science, Psychology

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology


2023 Jun 16

Brain Res


Mu opioid receptor expressing neurons in the rostral ventromedial medulla are the source of mechanical hypersensitivity induced by repeated restraint stress.


Imbe H, Ihara H


Repeated exposure to psychophysical stress often causes an increase in sensitivity and response to pain. This phenomenon is commonly called stress-induced hyperalgesia (SIH). Although psychophysical stress is a well-known risk factor for numerous chronic pain syndromes, the neural mechanism underlying SIH has not yet been elucidated. The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) is a key output element of the descending pain modulation system. Descending signals from the RVM have a major impact on spinal nociceptive neurotransmission. In the present study, to clarify changes in the descending pain modulatory system in rats with SIH, we examined the expression of Mu opioid receptor (MOR) mRNA, MeCP2 and global DNA methylation in the RVM after repeated restraint stress for 3 weeks. Additionally, we microinjected neurotoxin dermorphin-SAP into the RVM. The repeated restraint stress for 3 weeks induced mechanical hypersensitivity in the hind paw, a significant increase in the expression of MOR mRNA and MeCP2, and a significant decrease in global DNA methylation in the RVM. The MeCP2 binding to MOR gene promoter in the RVM was significantly decreased in rats with repeated restraint stress. Furthermore, microinjection of dermorphin-SAP into the RVM prevented the mechanical hypersensitivity induced by repeated restraint stress. Although, because of the lack of specific antibody to MOR, we could not show a quantitative analysis in the number of MOR-expressing neurons after the microinjection, these results suggest that MOR-expressing neurons in the RVM induce SIH after repeated restraint stress.