Spinal G-protein-gated potassium channels contribute in a dose-dependent manner to the analgesic effect of mu- and delta- but not kappa-opioids.
ABSTRACT: Opioids can evoke analgesia by inhibiting neuronal targets in either the brain or spinal cord, and multiple presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibitory mechanisms have been implicated. The relative significance of presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibition to opioid analgesia is essentially unknown, as are the identities and relevant locations of effectors mediating opioid actions. Here, we examined the distribution of G-protein-gated potassium (GIRK) channels in the mouse spinal cord and measured their contribution to the analgesia evoked by spinal administration of opioid receptor-selective agonists. We found that the GIRK channel subunits GIRK1 and GIRK2 were concentrated in the outer layer of the substantia gelatinosa of the dorsal horn. GIRK1 and GIRK2 were found almost exclusively in postsynaptic membranes of putative excitatory synapses, and a significant degree of overlap with the mu-opioid receptor was observed. Although most GIRK subunit labeling was perisynaptic or extrasynaptic, GIRK2 was found occasionally within the synaptic specialization. Genetic ablation or pharmacologic inhibition of spinal GIRK channels selectively blunted the analgesic effect of high but not lower doses of the mu-opioid receptor-selective agonist [D-Ala(2),N-Me-Phe(4),Gly(5)-ol]-enkephalin. Dose-dependent contributions of GIRK channels to the analgesic effects of the -opioid receptor-selective agonists Tyr-D-Ala-Phe-Glu-Val-Val-Gly amide and [D-Pen(2,5)]-enkephalin were also observed. In contrast, the analgesic effect of the agonist (trans)-3,4-dichloro-N-methyl-N-[2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl] benzeneacetamide methanesulfonate hydrate was preserved despite the absence of GIRK channels. We conclude that the activation of postsynaptic GIRK1 and/or GIRK2-containing channels in the spinal cord dorsal horn represents a powerful, albeit relatively insensitive, means by which intrathecal mu- and -selective opioid agonists evoke analgesia.
Project description:Although the efficacy of peripherally administered opioid has been demonstrated in preclinical and clinical studies, the underlying mechanisms of its anti-hyperalgesic effects are poorly understood. G protein-coupled inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels are linked to opioid receptors in the brain. However, the role of peripheral GIRK channels in analgesia induced by peripherally administered opioid, especially in trigeminal system, is not clear.Expression of GIRK subunits in rat trigeminal ganglia (TG) was examined with reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, Western blot and immunohistochemistry. Chemical profiles of GIRK-expressing neurons in TG were further characterized. Behavioural and Fos experiments were performed to examine the functional involvement of GIRK channels in ?-opioid receptor (DOR)-mediated anti-hyperalgesia under an acute myositis condition.TG expressed mRNA and proteins for GIRK1 and GIRK2 subunits. Majority of GIRK1- and GIRK2-expressing neurons were non-peptidergic afferents. Inhibition of peripheral GIRK using Tertiapin-Q (TPQ) attenuated antinociceptive effects of peripherally administered DOR agonist, [D-Pen(2), D-Pen(6) ]-enkephalin (DPDPE), on mechanical hypersensitivity in masseter muscle. Furthermore, TPQ attenuated the suppressive effects of peripheral DPDPE on neuronal activation in the subnucleus caudalis of the trigeminal nucleus (Vc) following masseteric injection of capsaicin.Our data indicate that peripheral DOR agonist-induced suppression of mechanical hypersensitivity in the masseter muscle involves the activity of peripheral GIRK channels. These results could provide a rationale for developing a novel therapeutic approach using peripheral GIRK channel openers to mimic or supplement the effects of peripheral opioid agonist.
Project description:G protein-gated inwardly-rectifying K(+) (GIRK/family 3 of inwardly-rectifying K(+) ) channels are coupled to neurotransmitter action and can play important roles in modulating neuronal excitability. We investigated the temporal and spatial expression of GIRK1, GIRK2 and GIRK3 subunits in the developing and adult brain of mice and rats using biochemical, immunohistochemical and immunoelectron microscopic techniques. At all ages analysed, the overall distribution patterns of GIRK1-3 were very similar, with high expression levels in the neocortex, cerebellum, hippocampus and thalamus. Focusing on the hippocampus, histoblotting and immunohistochemistry showed that GIRK1-3 protein levels increased with age, and this was accompanied by a shift in the subcellular localization of the subunits. Early in development (postnatal day 5), GIRK subunits were predominantly localized to the endoplasmic reticulum in the pyramidal cells, but by postnatal day 60 they were mostly found along the plasma membrane. During development, GIRK1 and GIRK2 were found primarily at postsynaptic sites, whereas GIRK3 was predominantly detected at presynaptic sites. In addition, GIRK1 and GIRK2 expression on the spine plasma membrane showed identical proximal-to-distal gradients that differed from GIRK3 distribution. Furthermore, although GIRK1 was never found within the postsynaptic density (PSD), the level of GIRK2 in the PSD progressively increased and GIRK3 did not change in the PSD during development. Together, these findings shed new light on the developmental regulation and subcellular diversity of neuronal GIRK channels, and support the contention that distinct subpopulations of GIRK channels exert separable influences on neuronal excitability. The ability to selectively target specific subpopulations of GIRK channels may prove effective in the treatment of disorders of excitability.
Project description:Increased nociceptive neuronal excitability underlies chronic pain conditions. Various ion channels, including sodium, calcium and potassium channels have pivotal roles in the control of neuronal excitability. The members of the family of G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels, GIRK1-4, have been implicated in modulating excitability. Here, we investigated the expression and distribution of GIRK1 and GIRK2 in normal and injured dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) and spinal cord of rats.We found that ~70% of the DRG neurons expressed GIRK1, while only <10% expressed GIRK2. The neurochemical profiles of GIRK1- and GIRK2-immunoreactive neurons were characterized using the neuronal markers calcitonin gene-related peptide, isolectin-B4 and neurofilament-200, and the calcium-binding proteins calbindin D28k, calretinin, parvalbumin and secretagogin. Both GIRK subunits were expressed in DRG neurons with nociceptive characteristics. However, while GIRK1 was widely expressed in several sensory neuronal subtypes, GIRK2 was detected mainly in a group of small C-fiber neurons. In the spinal dorsal horn, GIRK1- and -2-positive cell bodies and processes were mainly observed in lamina II, but also in superficial and deeper layers. Abundant GIRK1-, but not GIRK2-like immunoreactivity, was found in the ventral horn (laminae VI-X). Fourteen days after axotomy, GIRK1 and GIRK2 were down-regulated in DRG neurons at the mRNA and protein levels. Both after axotomy and rhizotomy there was a reduction of GIRK1- and -2-positive processes in the dorsal horn, suggesting a presynaptic localization of these potassium channels. Furthermore, nerve ligation caused accumulation of both subunits on both sides of the lesion, providing evidence for anterograde and retrograde fast axonal transport.Our data support the hypothesis that reduced GIRK function is associated with increased neuronal excitability and causes sensory disturbances in post-injury conditions, including neuropathic pain.
Project description:The use of opioid agonists acting outside the central nervous system (CNS) is a promising therapeutic strategy for pain control that avoids deleterious central side effects such as apnea and addiction. In human clinical trials and rat models of inflammatory pain, peripherally restricted opioids have repeatedly shown powerful analgesic effects; in some mouse models however, their actions remain unclear. Here, we investigated opioid receptor coupling to K(+) channels as a mechanism to explain such discrepancies. We found that GIRK channels, major effectors for opioid signalling in the CNS, are absent from mouse peripheral sensory neurons but present in human and rat. In vivo transgenic expression of GIRK channels in mouse nociceptors established peripheral opioid signalling and local analgesia. We further identified a regulatory element in the rat GIRK2 gene that accounts for differential expression in rodents. Thus, GIRK channels are indispensable for peripheral opioid analgesia, and their absence in mice has profound consequences for GPCR signalling in peripheral sensory neurons.
Project description:Many neurotransmitters directly inhibit neurons by activating G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K+ (GIRK) channels, thereby moderating the influence of excitatory input on neuronal excitability. While most neuronal GIRK channels are formed by GIRK1 and GIRK2 subunits, distinct GIRK2 isoforms generated by alternative splicing have been identified. Here, we compared the trafficking and function of two isoforms (GIRK2a and GIRK2c) expressed individually in hippocampal pyramidal neurons lacking GIRK2. GIRK2a and GIRK2c supported comparable somato-dendritic GIRK currents in Girk2 -/- pyramidal neurons, although GIRK2c achieved a more uniform subcellular distribution in pyramidal neurons and supported inhibitory postsynaptic currents in distal dendrites better than GIRK2a. While over-expression of either isoform in dorsal CA1 pyramidal neurons restored contextual fear learning in a conditional Girk2 -/- mouse line, GIRK2a also enhanced cue fear learning. Collectively, these data indicate that GIRK2 isoform balance within a neuron can impact the processing of afferent inhibitory input and associated behavior.
Project description:Recurrent high-frequency epileptic seizures cause progressive hippocampal sclerosis, which is associated with caspase-3 activation and NMDA receptor-dependent excitotoxicity. However, the identity of caspase-3 substrates that contribute to seizure-induced hippocampal atrophy remains largely unknown. Here, we show that prolonged high-frequency epileptiform discharges in cultured hippocampal neurons leads to caspase-dependent cleavage of GIRK1 and GIRK2, the major subunits of neuronal G protein-activated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels that mediate membrane hyperpolarization and synaptic inhibition in the brain. We have identified caspase-3 cleavage sites in GIRK1 (387ECLD390) and GIRK2 (349YEVD352). The YEVD motif is highly conserved in GIRK2-4, and located within their C-terminal binding sites for G?? proteins that mediate membrane-delimited GIRK activation. Indeed, the cleaved GIRK2 displays reduced binding to G?? and cannot coassemble with GIRK1. Loss of an ER export motif upon cleavage of GIRK2 abolishes surface and current expression of GIRK2 homotetramic channels. Lastly, kainate-induced status epilepticus causes GIRK1 and GIRK2 cleavage in the hippocampus in vivo. Our findings are the first to show direct cleavage of GIRK1 and GIRK2 subunits by caspase-3, and suggest the possible role of caspase-3 mediated down-regulation of GIRK channel function and expression in hippocampal neuronal injury during prolonged epileptic seizures.
Project description:G-protein coupled inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels are effectors determining degree of analgesia experienced upon opioid receptor activation by endogenous and exogenous opioids. The impact of GIRK-related genetic variation on human pain responses has received little research attention. We used a tag single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) approach to comprehensively examine pain-related effects of KCNJ3 (GIRK1) and KCNJ6 (GIRK2) gene variation. Forty-one KCNJ3 and 69 KCNJ6 tag SNPs were selected, capturing the known variability in each gene. The primary sample included 311 white patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty in whom postsurgical oral opioid analgesic medication order data were available. Primary sample findings were then replicated in an independent white sample of 63 healthy pain-free individuals and 75 individuals with chronic low back pain (CLBP) who provided data regarding laboratory acute pain responsiveness (ischemic task) and chronic pain intensity and unpleasantness (CLBP only). Univariate quantitative trait analyses in the primary sample revealed that 8 KCNJ6 SNPs were significantly associated with the medication order phenotype (P < .05); overall effects of the KCNJ6 gene (gene set-based analysis) just failed to reach significance (P = .054). No significant KCNJ3 effects were observed. A continuous GIRK Related Risk Score (GRRS) was derived in the primary sample to summarize each individual's number of KCNJ6 "pain risk" alleles. This GRRS was applied to the replication sample, which revealed significant associations (P < .05) between higher GRRS values and lower acute pain tolerance and higher CLBP intensity and unpleasantness. Results suggest further exploration of the impact of KCNJ6 genetic variation on pain outcomes is warranted.
Project description:To investigate the effects of various chemical classes of antipsychotic drugs: haloperidol, thioridazine, pimozide and clozapine, on the G-protein-activated inwardly rectifying K(+) (GIRK) channels, we carried out Xenopus oocyte functional assays with GIRK1 and GIRK2 mRNAs or GIRK1 and GIRK4 mRNAs. In oocytes co-injected with GIRK1 and GIRK2 mRNAs, application of each of the various antipsychotic drugs immediately caused a reduction of inward currents through the basally active GIRK channels. These responses were not observed in the presence of 3 mM Ba(2+), which blocks the GIRK channels. In addition, in uninjected oocytes, none of the drugs tested produced any significant current response. These results indicate that all the antipsychotic drugs tested inhibited the brain-type GIRK1/2 heteromultimeric channels. Furthermore, similar results were obtained in oocytes co-injected with GIRK1 and GIRK4 mRNAs, indicating that the antipsychotic drugs also inhibited the cardiac-type GIRK1/4 heteromultimeric channels. All the drugs tested inhibited, in a concentration-dependent manner, both types of GIRK channels with varying degrees of potency and effectiveness at micromolar concentrations. Only pimozide caused slight inhibition of these channels at nanomolar concentrations. We conclude that the various antipsychotic drugs acted as inhibitors at the brain-type and cardiac-type GIRK channels. Our results suggest that inhibition of both types of GIRK channels by these drugs underlies some of the side effects, in particular seizures and sinus tachycardia, observed in clinical practice.
Project description:G protein-gated, inwardly rectifying, potassium (GIRK) channels are important regulators of cellular excitability throughout the body. GIRK channels are heterotetrameric and homotetrameric combinations of the Kir3.1-4 (GIRK1-4) subunits. Different subunit combinations are expressed throughout the central nervous system (CNS) and the periphery, and most of these combinations contain a GIRK1 subunit. For example, the predominance of GIRK channels in the CNS are composed of GIRK1 and GIRK2 subunits, while the GIRK channels in cardiac atrial myocytes are made up mostly of GIRK1 and GIRK4 subunits. Although the vast majority of GIRK channels contain a GIRK1 subunit, discrete populations of cells that express non-GIRK1-containing GIRK (non-GIRK1/X) channels do exist. For instance, dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, associated with addiction and reward, do not express the GIRK1 subunit. Targeting these non-GIRK1/X channels with subunit-selective pharmacological probes could lead to important insights into how GIRK channels are involved in reward and addiction. Such insights may, in turn, reveal therapeutic opportunities for the treatment or prevention of addiction. Previously, our laboratory discovered small molecules that can specifically modulate the activity of GIRK1-containing GIRK channels. However, efforts to generate compounds active on non-GIRK1/X channels from these scaffolds have been unsuccessful. Recently, ivermectin was shown to modulate non-GIRK1/X channels, and historically, ivermectin is known to modulate a wide variety of neuronal channels and receptors. Further, ivermectin is a complex natural product, which makes it a challenging starting point for development of more selective, effective, and potent compounds. Thus, while ivermectin provides proof-of-concept as a non-GIRK1/X channel activator, it is of limited utility. Therefore, we sought to discover a synthetic small molecule that would serve as a starting point for the development of non-GIRK1/X channel modulators. To accomplish this, we used a high-throughput thallium flux assay to screen a 100?000-compound library in search of activators of homomeric GIRK2 channels. Using this approach, we discovered VU0529331, the first synthetic small molecule reported to activate non-GIRK1/X channels, to our knowledge. This discovery represents the first step toward developing potent and selective non-GIRK1/X channel probes. Such molecules will help elucidate the role of GIRK channels in addiction, potentially establishing a foundation for future development of therapies utilizing targeted GIRK channel modulation.
Project description:Activation of G protein-gated inwardly-rectifying K(+) (GIRK or Kir3) channels by metabotropic gamma-aminobutyric acid (B) (GABA(B)) receptors is an essential signalling pathway controlling neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission in the brain. To investigate the relationship between GIRK channel subunits and GABA(B) receptors in cerebellar Purkinje cells at post- and pre-synaptic sites, we used biochemical, functional and immunohistochemical techniques. Co-immunoprecipitation analysis demonstrated that GIRK subunits are co-assembled with GABA(B) receptors in the cerebellum. Immunoelectron microscopy showed that the subunit composition of GIRK channels in Purkinje cell spines is compartment-dependent. Thus, at extrasynaptic sites GIRK channels are formed by GIRK1/GIRK2/GIRK3, post-synaptic densities contain GIRK2/GIRK3 and dendritic shafts contain GIRK1/GIRK3. The post-synaptic association of GIRK subunits with GABA(B) receptors in Purkinje cells is supported by the subcellular regulation of the ion channel and the receptor in mutant mice. At pre-synaptic sites, GIRK channels localized to parallel fibre terminals are formed by GIRK1/GIRK2/GIRK3 and co-localize with GABA(B) receptors. Consistent with this morphological evidence we demonstrate their functional interaction at axon terminals in the cerebellum by showing that GIRK channels play a role in the inhibition of glutamate release by GABA(B) receptors. The association of GIRK channels and GABA(B) receptors with excitatory synapses at both post- and pre-synaptic sites indicates their intimate involvement in the modulation of glutamatergic neurotransmission in the cerebellum.