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Papers of the Week

Papers: 4 Nov 2023 - 10 Nov 2023


Front Neurosci



Predictive analytics identifies key factors driving hyperalgesic priming of muscle sensory neurons.


Nagaraja S, Tewari SG, Reifman J


Hyperalgesic priming, a form of neuroplasticity induced by inflammatory mediators, in peripheral nociceptors enhances the magnitude and duration of action potential (AP) firing to future inflammatory events and can potentially lead to pain chronification. The mechanisms underlying the development of hyperalgesic priming are not well understood, limiting the identification of novel therapeutic strategies to combat chronic pain. In this study, we used a computational model to identify key proteins whose modifications caused priming of muscle nociceptors and made them hyperexcitable to a subsequent inflammatory event. First, we extended a previously validated model of mouse muscle nociceptor sensitization to incorporate Epac-mediated interaction between two G protein-coupled receptor signaling pathways commonly activated by inflammatory mediators. Next, we calibrated and validated the model simulations of the nociceptor’s AP response to both innocuous and noxious levels of mechanical force after two subsequent inflammatory events using literature data. Then, by performing global sensitivity analyses that simulated thousands of nociceptor-priming scenarios, we identified five ion channels and two molecular processes (from the 18 modeled transmembrane proteins and 29 intracellular signaling components) as potential regulators of the increase in AP firing in response to mechanical forces. Finally, when we simulated specific neuroplastic modifications in Kv1.1 and Nav1.7 alone as well as with simultaneous modifications in Nav1.7, Nav1.8, TRPA1, and Kv7.2, we observed a considerable increase in the fold change in the number of triggered APs in primed nociceptors. These results suggest that altering the expression of Kv1.1 and Nav1.7 might regulate the neuronal hyperexcitability in primed mechanosensitive muscle nociceptors.