Molecular Bases of Disease
- Type-2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2, encoded by the Cnr2 gene) are mainly expressed in immune cells, and CB2 agonists normally have no analgesic effect. However, nerve injury upregulates CB2 in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG), following which CB2 stimulation reduces neuropathic pain. It is unclear how nerve injury increases CB2 expression or how CB2 activity is transformed in neuropathic pain. In this study, immunoblotting showed that spinal nerve ligation (SNL) induced a delayed and sustained increase in CB2 expression in the DRG and dorsal spinal cord synaptosomes.
- Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are expressed in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and contribute to the analgesic effect of cannabinoids. However, the epigenetic mechanism regulating the expression of CB1Rs in neuropathic pain is unknown. G9a (encoded by the Ehmt2 gene), a histone 3 at lysine 9 methyltransferase, is a key chromatin regulator responsible for gene silencing. In this study, we determined G9a's role in regulating CB1R expression in the DRG and in CB1R-mediated analgesic effects in an animal model of neuropathic pain.
- Neuropathic pain is associated with persistent changes in gene expression in primary sensory neurons, but the underlying epigenetic mechanisms that cause these changes remain unclear. The muscarinic cholinergic receptors (mAChRs), particularly the M2 subtype (encoded by the cholinergic receptor muscarinic 2 (Chrm2) gene), are critically involved in the regulation of spinal nociceptive transmission. However, little is known about how Chrm2 expression is transcriptionally regulated. Here we show that nerve injury persistently increased the expression of RE1-silencing transcription factor (REST, also known as neuron-restrictive silencing factor [NRSF]), a gene-silencing transcription factor, in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG).
- Chemotherapeutic drugs such as paclitaxel cause painful peripheral neuropathy in many cancer patients and survivors. Although NMDA receptors (NMDARs) at primary afferent terminals are known to be critically involved in chemotherapy-induced chronic pain, the upstream signaling mechanism that leads to presynaptic NMDAR activation is unclear. Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) play a role in synaptic plasticity and NMDAR regulation. Here we report that the Group I mGluR agonist (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG) significantly increased the frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and the amplitude of monosynaptic EPSCs evoked from the dorsal root.
- Painful peripheral neuropathy is a severe adverse effect of chemotherapeutic drugs such as paclitaxel (Taxol). The glutamate N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are critically involved in the synaptic plasticity associated with neuropathic pain. However, paclitaxel treatment does not alter the postsynaptic NMDAR activity of spinal dorsal horn neurons. In this study, we determined whether paclitaxel affects presynaptic NMDAR activity by recording excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) of dorsal horn neurons in spinal cord slices.
- The μ-opioid receptor (MOR, encoded by Oprm1) agonists are the mainstay analgesics for treating moderate to severe pain. Nerve injury causes down-regulation of MORs in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and diminishes the opioid effect on neuropathic pain. However, the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the diminished MOR expression caused by nerve injury are not clear. G9a (encoded by Ehmt2), a histone 3 at lysine 9 methyltransferase, is a key chromatin regulator responsible for gene silencing. In this study, we determined the role of G9a in diminished MOR expression and opioid analgesic effects in animal models of neuropathic pain.
- Pannexin-1 (Panx1) is a large-pore membrane channel involved in the release of ATP and other signaling mediators. Little is known about the expression and functional role of Panx1 in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) in the development of chronic neuropathic pain. In this study, we determined the epigenetic mechanism involved in increased Panx1 expression in the DRG after nerve injury. Spinal nerve ligation in rats significantly increased the mRNA and protein levels of Panx1 in the DRG but not in the spinal cord.