Delta opioid receptors presynaptically regulate cutaneous mechanosensory neuron input to the spinal cord dorsal horn.
ABSTRACT: Cutaneous mechanosensory neurons detect mechanical stimuli that generate touch and pain sensation. Although opioids are generally associated only with the control of pain, here we report that the opioid system in fact broadly regulates cutaneous mechanosensation, including touch. This function is predominantly subserved by the delta opioid receptor (DOR), which is expressed by myelinated mechanoreceptors that form Meissner corpuscles, Merkel cell-neurite complexes, and circumferential hair follicle endings. These afferents also include a small population of CGRP-expressing myelinated nociceptors that we now identify as the somatosensory neurons that coexpress mu and delta opioid receptors. We further demonstrate that DOR activation at the central terminals of myelinated mechanoreceptors depresses synaptic input to the spinal dorsal horn, via the inhibition of voltage-gated calcium channels. Collectively our results uncover a molecular mechanism by which opioids modulate cutaneous mechanosensation and provide a rationale for targeting DOR to alleviate injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity.
Project description:The canonical view is that touch is signaled by fast-conducting, thickly myelinated afferents, whereas pain is signaled by slow-conducting, thinly myelinated ("fast" pain) or unmyelinated ("slow" pain) afferents. While other mammals have thickly myelinated afferents signaling pain (ultrafast nociceptors), these have not been demonstrated in humans. Here, we performed single-unit axonal recordings (microneurography) from cutaneous mechanoreceptive afferents in healthy participants. We identified A-fiber high-threshold mechanoreceptors (A-HTMRs) that were insensitive to gentle touch, encoded noxious skin indentations, and displayed conduction velocities similar to A-fiber low-threshold mechanoreceptors. Intraneural electrical stimulation of single ultrafast A-HTMRs evoked painful percepts. Testing in patients with selective deafferentation revealed impaired pain judgments to graded mechanical stimuli only when thickly myelinated fibers were absent. This function was preserved in patients with a loss-of-function mutation in mechanotransduction channel PIEZO2. These findings demonstrate that human mechanical pain does not require PIEZO2 and can be signaled by fast-conducting, thickly myelinated afferents.
Project description:The sense of touch provides critical information about our physical environment by transforming mechanical energy into electrical signals. It is postulated that mechanically activated cation channels initiate touch sensation, but the identity of these molecules in mammals has been elusive. Piezo2 is a rapidly adapting, mechanically activated ion channel expressed in a subset of sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglion and in cutaneous mechanoreceptors known as Merkel-cell-neurite complexes. It has been demonstrated that Merkel cells have a role in vertebrate mechanosensation using Piezo2, particularly in shaping the type of current sent by the innervating sensory neuron; however, major aspects of touch sensation remain intact without Merkel cell activity. Here we show that mice lacking Piezo2 in both adult sensory neurons and Merkel cells exhibit a profound loss of touch sensation. We precisely localize Piezo2 to the peripheral endings of a broad range of low-threshold mechanoreceptors that innervate both hairy and glabrous skin. Most rapidly adapting, mechanically activated currents in dorsal root ganglion neuronal cultures are absent in Piezo2 conditional knockout mice, and ex vivo skin nerve preparation studies show that the mechanosensitivity of low-threshold mechanoreceptors strongly depends on Piezo2. This cellular phenotype correlates with an unprecedented behavioural phenotype: an almost complete deficit in light-touch sensation in multiple behavioural assays, without affecting other somatosensory functions. Our results highlight that a single ion channel that displays rapidly adapting, mechanically activated currents in vitro is responsible for the mechanosensitivity of most low-threshold mechanoreceptor subtypes involved in innocuous touch sensation. Notably, we find that touch and pain sensation are separable, suggesting that as-yet-unknown mechanically activated ion channel(s) must account for noxious (painful) mechanosensation.
Project description:Opioids remain the standard for analgesic care; however, adverse effects of systemic treatments contraindicate long-term administration. While most clinical opioids target mu opioid receptors (MOR), those that target the delta class (DOR) also demonstrate analgesic efficacy. Furthermore, peripherally restrictive opioids represent an attractive direction for analgesia. However, opioid receptors including DOR are analgesically incompetent in the absence of inflammation. Here, we report that G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2 (GRK2) naively associates with plasma membrane DOR in peripheral sensory neurons to inhibit analgesic agonist efficacy. This interaction prevents optimal G? subunit association with the receptor, thereby reducing DOR activity. Importantly, bradykinin stimulates GRK2 movement away from DOR and onto Raf kinase inhibitory protein (RKIP). protein kinase C (PKC)-dependent RKIP phosphorylation induces GRK2 sequestration, restoring DOR functionality in sensory neurons. Together, these results expand the known function of GRK2, identifying a non-internalizing role to maintain peripheral DOR in an analgesically incompetent state.
Project description:The medial thalamus (MThal), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and striatum play important roles in affective-motivational pain processing and reward learning. Opioids affect both pain and reward through uncharacterized modulation of this circuitry. This study examined opioid actions on glutamate transmission between these brain regions in mouse. Mu-opioid receptor (MOR) agonists potently inhibited MThal inputs without affecting ACC inputs to individual striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). MOR activation also inhibited MThal inputs to the pyramidal neurons in the ACC. In contrast, delta-opioid receptor (DOR) agonists disinhibited ACC pyramidal neuron responses to MThal inputs by suppressing local feed-forward GABA signaling from parvalbumin-positive interneurons. As a result, DOR activation in the ACC facilitated poly-synaptic (thalamo-cortico-striatal) excitation of MSNs by MThal inputs. These results suggest that opioid effects on pain and reward may be shaped by the relative selectivity of opioid drugs to the specific circuit components.
Project description:Delta and mu opioid receptors (DORs and MORs) are inhibitory G protein-coupled receptors that reportedly cooperatively regulate the transmission of pain messages by substance P and TRPV1-expressing pain fibers. Using a DOReGFP reporter mouse we now show that the DOR and MOR are, in fact, expressed by different subsets of primary afferents. The MOR is expressed in peptidergic pain fibers, the DOR in myelinated and nonpeptidergic afferents. Contrary to the prevailing view, we demonstrate that the DOR is trafficked to the cell surface under resting conditions, independently of substance P, and internalized following activation by DOR agonists. Finally, we show that the segregated DOR and MOR distribution is paralleled by a remarkably selective functional contribution of the two receptors to the control of mechanical and heat pain, respectively. These results demonstrate that behaviorally relevant pain modalities can be selectively regulated through the targeting of distinct subsets of primary afferent pain fibers.
Project description:Fear and emotional learning are modulated by endogenous opioids but the cellular basis for this is unknown. The intercalated cells (ITCs) gate amygdala output and thus regulate the fear response. Here we find endogenous opioids are released by synaptic stimulation to act via two distinct mechanisms within the main ITC cluster. Endogenously released opioids inhibit glutamate release through the ?-opioid receptor (DOR), an effect potentiated by a DOR-positive allosteric modulator. Postsynaptically, the opioids activate a potassium conductance through the ?-opioid receptor (MOR), suggesting for the first time that endogenously released opioids directly regulate neuronal excitability. Ultrastructural localization of endogenous ligands support these functional findings. This study demonstrates a new role for endogenously released opioids as neuromodulators engaged by synaptic activity to regulate moment-to-moment neuronal communication and excitability. These distinct actions through MOR and DOR may underlie the opposing effect of these receptor systems on anxiety and fear.
Project description:The cellular proteins that underlie mechanosensation remain largely enigmatic in mammalian systems. Mechanically sensitive ion channels are thought to distinguish pressure, stretch, and other types of tactile signals in skin. Transient receptor potential canonical 1 (TRPC1) is a candidate mechanically sensitive channel that is expressed in primary afferent sensory neurons. However, its role in the mechanical sensitivity of these neurons is unclear. Here, we investigated TRPC1-dependent responses to both innocuous and noxious mechanical force. Mechanically evoked action potentials in cutaneous myelinated A-fiber and unmyelinated C-fiber neurons were quantified using the ex vivo skin-nerve preparation to record from the saphenous nerve, which terminates in the dorsal hairy skin of the hindpaw. Our data reveal that in TRPC1-deficient mice, mechanically evoked action potentials were decreased by nearly 50% in slowly adapting A?-fibers, which largely innervate Merkel cells, and in rapidly adapting A?-Down-hair afferent fibers compared with wild-type controls. In contrast, differences were not found in slowly adapting A?-mechanoreceptors or unmyelinated C-fibers, which primarily respond to nociceptive stimuli. These results suggest that TRPC1 may be important in the detection of innocuous mechanical force. We concurrently investigated the role of TRPC1 in behavioral responses to mechanical force to the plantar hindpaw skin. For innocuous stimuli, we developed a novel light stroke assay using a "puffed out" cotton swab. Additionally, we used repeated light, presumably innocuous punctate stimuli with a low threshold von Frey filament (0.68 mN). In agreement with our electrophysiological data in light-touch afferents, TRPC1-deficient mice exhibited nearly a 50% decrease in behavioral responses to both the light-stroke and light punctate mechanical assays when compared with wild-type controls. In contrast, TRPC1-deficient mice exhibited normal paw withdrawal response to more intense mechanical stimuli that are typically considered measures of nociceptive behavior.
Project description:Evidence that the delta opioid receptor (DOR) is an attractive target for the treatment of brain disorders has strengthened in recent years. This receptor is broadly expressed in the brain, binds endogenous opioid peptides, and shows as functional profile highly distinct from those of mu and kappa opioid receptors. Our knowledge of DOR function has enormously progressed from in vivo studies using pharmacological tools and genetic approaches. The important role of this receptor in reducing chronic pain has been extensively overviewed; therefore this review focuses on facets of delta receptor activity relevant to psychiatric and other neurological disorders. Beneficial effects of DOR agonists are now well established in the context of emotional responses and mood disorders. DOR activation also regulates drug reward, inhibitory controls and learning processes, but whether delta compounds may represent useful drugs in the treatment of drug abuse remains open. Epileptogenic and locomotor-stimulating effects of delta agonists appear drug-dependent, and the possibility of biased agonism at DOR for these effects is worthwhile further investigations to increase benefit/risk ratio of delta therapies. Neuroprotective effects of DOR activity represent a forthcoming research area. Future developments in DOR research will benefit from in-depth investigations of DOR function at cellular and circuit levels.
Project description:Mechanoreceptors are sensory cells that transduce mechanical stimuli into electrical signals and mediate the perception of sound, touch and acceleration. Ciliated mechanoreceptors possess an elaborate microtubule cytoskeleton that facilitates the coupling of external forces to the transduction apparatus. In a screen for genes preferentially expressed in Drosophila campaniform mechanoreceptors, we identified DCX-EMAP, a unique member of the EMAP family (echinoderm-microtubule-associated proteins) that contains two doublecortin domains. DCX-EMAP localizes to the tubular body in campaniform receptors and to the ciliary dilation in chordotonal mechanoreceptors in Johnston's organ, the fly's auditory organ. Adult flies carrying a piggyBac insertion in the DCX-EMAP gene are uncoordinated and deaf and display loss of mechanosensory transduction and amplification. Electron microscopy of mutant sensilla reveals loss of electron-dense materials within the microtubule cytoskeleton in the tubular body and ciliary dilation. Our results establish a catalogue of candidate genes for Drosophila mechanosensation and show that one candidate, DCX-EMAP, is likely to be required for mechanosensory transduction and amplification.
Project description:Most clinically used opioids are thought to induce analgesia through activation of the mu opioid receptor (MOR). However, disparities have been observed between the efficacy of opioids in activating the MOR in vitro and in inducing analgesia in vivo. In addition, some clinically used opioids do not produce cross-tolerance with each other, and desensitization produced in vitro does not match tolerance produced in vivo. These disparities suggest that some opioids could be acting through other targets in vivo, but this has not been comprehensively tested. We thus screened 9 clinically relevant opioids (buprenorphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, O-desmethyl-tramadol, oxycodone, oxymorphone, tapentadol, tramadol) against 9 pain-related receptor targets (MOR, delta opioid receptor [DOR], kappa opioid receptor [KOR], nociceptin receptor [NOP], cannabinoid receptor type 1 [CB1], sigma-1 receptor [?1R], and the monoamine transporters [NET/SERT/DAT]) expressed in cells using radioligand binding and functional activity assays. We found several novel interactions, including monoamine transporter activation by buprenorphine and ?1R binding by hydrocodone and tapentadol. Tail flick anti-nociception experiments with CD-1 mice demonstrated that the monoamine transporter inhibitor duloxetine selectively promoted buprenorphine anti-nociception while producing no effects by itself or in combination with the most MOR-selective drug oxymorphone, providing evidence that these novel interactions could be relevant in vivo. Our findings provide a comprehensive picture of the receptor interaction profiles of clinically relevant opioids, which has not previously been performed. Our findings also suggest novel receptor interactions for future investigation that could explain some of the disparities observed between opioid performance in vitro and in vivo.