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Papers: 16 Mar 2024 - 22 Mar 2024

2024 Mar 15

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol


Protease-induced excitation of dorsal root ganglion neurons in response to acute perturbation of the gut microbiota is associated with visceral and somatic hypersensitivity.


Baker CC, Sessenwein JL, Wood HM, Yu Y, Tsang Q, Alward TA, Jimenez Vargas NN, Omar AA, McDonnel A, Segal J, Sjaarda CP, Bunnett NW, Schmidt BL, Caminero A, Boev N, Bannerman C, Ghasemlou N, Sheth PM, Vanner SJ, Reed DE, Lomax AE


Abdominal pain is a major symptom of diseases that are associated with microbial dysbiosis, including irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Germ-free mice are more prone to abdominal pain than conventionally-housed mice, and reconstitution of the microbiota in germ-free mice reduces abdominal pain sensitivity. However, the mechanisms underlying microbial modulation of pain remain elusive. We hypothesized that disruption of the intestinal microbiota modulates the excitability of peripheral nociceptive neurons. In vivo and in vitro assays of visceral sensation were performed on mice treated with the non-absorbable antibiotic vancomycin (50 μg/mL in drinking water) for 7 days and water-treated control mice. Bacterial dysbiosis was verified by 16s rRNA analysis of stool microbial composition. Treatment of mice with vancomycin led to an increased sensitivity to colonic distension in vivo and in vitro, and hyperexcitability of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in vitro, compared to controls. Interestingly, hyperexcitability of DRG neurons was not restricted to those that innervated the gut, suggesting a widespread effect of gut dysbiosis on peripheral pain circuits. Consistent with this, mice treated with vancomycin were more sensitive than control mice to thermal stimuli applied to hind paws. Incubation of DRG neurons from naïve mice in serum from vancomycin-treated mice increased DRG neuron excitability, suggesting that microbial dysbiosis alters circulating mediators that influence nociception. The cysteine protease inhibitor E64 (30 nM) and the protease-activated receptor 2 (PAR-2) antagonist GB-83 (10 μM) each blocked the increase in DRG neuron excitability in response to serum from vancomycin-treated mice, as did the knockout of PAR-2 in NaV1.8-expressing neurons. Stool supernatant, but not colonic supernatant, from mice treated with vancomycin increased DRG neuron excitability via cysteine protease activation of PAR-2. Together, these data suggest that gut microbial dysbiosis alters pain sensitivity and identify cysteine proteases as a potential mediator of this effect.