I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 13 May 2023 - 19 May 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

Cancer Pain, Neuropathic Pain

2023 Apr 21

J Neurosci


NMDA receptors at primary afferent-excitatory neuron synapses differentially drive chemotherapy- and nerve trauma-induced pain hypersensitivity.


Huang 黄玉莹 Y, Chen 陈红 H, Jin 金道忠 D, Chen 陈少瑞 SR, Pan 潘惠麟 HL


The spinal dorsal horn contains vesicular glutamate transporter-2 (VGluT2)-expressing excitatory neurons and vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT)-expressing inhibitory neurons, which normally have different roles in nociceptive transmission. Spinal glutamate NMDA receptor (NMDAR) hyperactivity is a crucial mechanism of chronic neuropathic pain. However, it is unclear how NMDARs regulate primary afferent input to spinal excitatory and inhibitory neurons in neuropathic pain. Also, the functional significance of presynaptic NMDARs in neuropathic pain has not been defined explicitly. Here we showed that paclitaxel treatment or spared nerve injury (SNI) similarly increased the NMDAR-mediated mEPSC frequency and dorsal root-evoked EPSCs in VGluT2 dorsal horn neurons in male and female mice. By contrast, neither paclitaxel nor SNI had any effect on mEPSCs or evoked EPSCs in VGAT neurons. In mice with conditional (gene encoding GluN1) knockout in primary sensory neurons (-cKO), paclitaxel treatment failed to induce pain hypersensitivity. Unexpectedly, SNI still caused long-lasting pain hypersensitivity in -cKO mice. SNI increased the amplitude of puff NMDA currents in VGluT2 neurons and caused similar depolarizing shifts in GABA reversal potentials in wild-type and -cKO mice. Concordantly, spinal knockdown diminished SNI-induced pain hypersensitivity. Thus, presynaptic NMDARs preferentially amplify primary afferent input to spinal excitatory neurons in neuropathic pain. Although presynaptic NMDARs are required for chemotherapy-induced pain hypersensitivity, postsynaptic NMDARs in spinal excitatory neurons play a dominant role in traumatic nerve injury-induced chronic pain. Our findings reveal the divergent functional significance of spinal presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDARs in regulating cell type-specific nociceptive input in neuropathic pain with different etiologies.Spinal excitatory neurons relay input from nociceptors, whereas inhibitory neurons repress spinal nociceptive transmission. Chronic nerve pain is associated with aberrant NMDAR activity in the spinal dorsal horn. This study demonstrates for the first time that chemotherapy and traumatic nerve injury preferentially enhance the NMDAR activity at primary afferent-excitatory neuron synapses but have no effect on primary afferent input to spinal inhibitory neurons. NMDARs in primary sensory neurons are essential for chemotherapy-induced chronic pain, whereas nerve trauma causes pain hypersensitivity predominantly via postsynaptic NMDARs in spinal excitatory neurons. Thus, presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDARs at primary afferent-excitatory neuron synapses are differentially engaged in chemotherapy- and nerve injury-induced chronic pain and could be targeted respectively for treating these painful conditions.