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Concept: Ganglion


Little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying mammalian touch transduction. To identify novel candidate transducers, we examined the molecular and cellular basis of touch in one of the most sensitive tactile organs in the animal kingdom, the star of the star-nosed mole. Our findings demonstrate that the trigeminal ganglia innervating the star are enriched in tactile-sensitive neurons, resulting in a higher proportion of light touch fibers and lower proportion of nociceptors compared to the dorsal root ganglia innervating the rest of the body. We exploit this difference using transcriptome analysis of the star-nosed mole sensory ganglia to identify novel candidate mammalian touch and pain transducers. The most enriched candidates are also expressed in mouse somatosesensory ganglia, suggesting they may mediate transduction in diverse species and are not unique to moles. These findings highlight the utility of examining diverse and specialized species to address fundamental questions in mammalian biology.

Concepts: Nervous system, Ganglion, Dorsal root ganglion, Sensory system, Skin, Somatosensory system, Nociception, Talpidae


Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons spontaneously undergo neurite growth after nerve injury. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), as small, non-coding RNAs, negatively regulate gene expression in a variety of biological processes. The roles of miRNAs in the regulation of responses of DRG neurons to injury stimuli, however, are not fully understood. Here, microarray analysis was performed to profile the miRNAs in L4-L6 DRGs following rat sciatic nerve transection. The 26 known miRNAs were differentially expressed at 0, 1, 4, 7, 14 d post injury, and the potential targets of the miRNAs were involved in nerve regeneration, as analyzed by bioinformatics. Among the 26 miRNAs, microRNA-222 (miR-222) was our research focus because its increased expression promoted neurite outgrowth while it silencing by miR-222 inhibitor reduced neurite outgrowth. Knockdown experiments confirmed that phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN), a major inhibitor of nerve regeneration, was a direct target of miR-222 in DRG neurons. In addition, we found that miR-222 might regulate the phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) through PTEN, and c-Jun activation might enhance the miR-222 expression. Collectively, our data suggest that miR-222 could regulate neurite outgrowth from DRG neurons by targeting PTEN.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Ganglion, Dorsal root ganglion, Gene, Gene expression, RNA, Transcription factor


Latent changes in trigeminal ganglion structure and function resembling inflammatory conditions may predispose to acute attacks of migraine pain. Here, we investigated whether, in trigeminal sensory ganglia, cytokines such as TNFα might contribute to a local inflammatory phenotype of a transgenic knock-in (KI) mouse model of familial hemiplegic migraine type-1 (FHM-1). To this end, macrophage occurrence and cytokine expression in trigeminal ganglia were compared between wild type (WT) and R192Q mutant Ca(V)2.1 Ca(2+) channel (R192Q KI) mice, a genetic model of FHM-1. Cellular and molecular characterization was performed using a combination of confocal immunohistochemistry and cytokine assays. With respect to WT, R192Q KI trigeminal ganglia were enriched in activated macrophages as suggested by their morphology and immunoreactivity to the markers Iba1, CD11b, and ED1. R192Q KI trigeminal ganglia constitutively expressed higher mRNA levels of IL1β, IL6, IL10 and TNFα cytokines and the MCP-1 chemokine. Consistent with the report that TNFα is a major factor to sensitize trigeminal ganglia, we observed that, following an inflammatory reaction evoked by LPS injection, TNFα expression and macrophage occurrence were significantly higher in R192Q KI ganglia with respect to WT ganglia. Our data suggest that, in KI trigeminal ganglia, the complex cellular and molecular environment could support a new tissue phenotype compatible with a neuroinflammatory profile. We propose that, in FHM patients, this condition might contribute to trigeminal pain pathophysiology through release of soluble mediators, including TNFα, that may modulate the crosstalk between sensory neurons and resident glia, underlying the process of neuronal sensitisation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ganglion, Gene, Apoptosis, Migraine, Trigeminal nerve, Familial hemiplegic migraine


The enteric nervous system (ENS) undergoes neuronal loss and degenerative changes with age. The cause of this neurodegeneration is poorly understood. Muscularis macrophages residing in close proximity to enteric ganglia maintain neuromuscular function via direct crosstalk with enteric neurons and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of GI motility disorders like gastroparesis and postoperative ileus. The aim of this study was to assess whether ageing causes alterations in macrophage phenotype that contributes to age-related degeneration of the ENS.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ganglion, Brain, Axon, Synapse, Neurotransmitter, Myelin


The integration of somatosensory information is generally assumed to be a function of the central nervous system (CNS). Here we describe fully functional GABAergic communication within rodent peripheral sensory ganglia and show that it can modulate transmission of pain-related signals from the peripheral sensory nerves to the CNS. We found that sensory neurons express major proteins necessary for GABA synthesis and release and that sensory neurons released GABA in response to depolarization. In vivo focal infusion of GABA or GABA reuptake inhibitor to sensory ganglia dramatically reduced acute peripherally induced nociception and alleviated neuropathic and inflammatory pain. In addition, focal application of GABA receptor antagonists to sensory ganglia triggered or exacerbated peripherally induced nociception. We also demonstrated that chemogenetic or optogenetic depolarization of GABAergic dorsal root ganglion neurons in vivo reduced acute and chronic peripherally induced nociception. Mechanistically, GABA depolarized the majority of sensory neuron somata, yet produced a net inhibitory effect on the nociceptive transmission due to the filtering effect at nociceptive fiber T-junctions. Our findings indicate that peripheral somatosensory ganglia represent a hitherto underappreciated site of somatosensory signal integration and offer a potential target for therapeutic intervention.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ganglion, Dorsal root ganglion, Pain, Sensory system, Neurotransmitter, Gamma-Aminobutyric acid


Electro-acupuncture (EA) performed in rats and humans using front-limb acupuncture sites, LI-4 and LI-11, and Du-14 and Du-20 increased functional connectivity between the anterior hypothalamus and the amygdala and mobilized mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) into the systemic circulation. In human subjects, the source of the MSC was found to be primarily adipose tissue whereas in rodents the tissue sources were considered more heterogeneous. Pharmacological disinhibition of rat hypothalamus enhanced sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation and similarly resulted in a release of MSC into the circulation. EA-mediated SNS activation was further supported by browning of white adipose tissue in rats. EA treatment of rats undergoing partial rupture of the Achilles tendon resulted in reduced mechanical hyperalgesia, increased serum IL-10 levels and tendon remodeling, effects blocked in propranolol-treated rodents. To distinguish the afferent role of the peripheral nervous system, phosphoinositide-interacting regulator of transient receptor potential channels (Pirt)-GCaMP3 (genetically encoded calcium sensor) mice were treated with EA directed at hind limb immune points, ST-36 and Liv-3 and resulted in a rapid activation of primary sensory neurons. EA activated sensory ganglia and SNS centers to mediate the release of MSC that can enhance tissue repair, increase anti-inflammatory cytokine production and provide pronounced analgesic relief. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Ganglion, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Adipocyte, Parasympathetic nervous system


Itch-specific neurons have been sought for decades. The existence of such neurons has been doubted recently as a result of the observation that itch-mediating neurons also respond to painful stimuli. We genetically labeled and manipulated MrgprA3(+) neurons in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and found that they exclusively innervated the epidermis of the skin and responded to multiple pruritogens. Ablation of MrgprA3(+) neurons led to substantial reductions in scratching evoked by multiple pruritogens and occurring spontaneously under chronic itch conditions, whereas pain sensitivity remained intact. Notably, mice in which TRPV1 was exclusively expressed in MrgprA3(+) neurons exhibited itch, but not pain, behavior in response to capsaicin. Although MrgprA3(+) neurons were sensitive to noxious heat, activation of TRPV1 in these neurons by noxious heat did not alter pain behavior. These data suggest that MrgprA3 defines a specific subpopulation of DRG neurons mediating itch. Our study opens new avenues for studying itch and developing anti-pruritic therapies.

Concepts: Nervous system, Ganglion, Dorsal root ganglion, Pain, Skin, Nociception, Nociceptor, Peripheral neuropathy


Mechanistic insights into pain pathways are essential for a rational approach to treating this vast and increasing clinical problem. Sensory neurons that respond to tissue damage (nociceptors) may evoke pain sensations and are typically classified on the basis of action potential velocity. Electrophysiological studies have suggested that most of the C-fiber nociceptors are polymodal, responding to a variety of insults. In contrast, gene deletion studies in the sensory neurons of transgenic mice have frequently resulted in modality-specific deficits. We have used an in vivo imaging approach using the genetically encoded fluorescent calcium indicator GCaMP to study the activity of dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons in live animals challenged with painful stimuli. Using this approach, we can visualize spatially distinct neuronal responses and find that >85% of responsive dorsal root ganglion neurons are modality-specific, responding to either noxious mechanical, cold, or heat stimuli. These observations are mirrored in behavioral studies of transgenic mice. For example, deleting sodium channel Nav1.8 silences mechanical- but not heat-sensing sensory neurons, consistent with behavioral deficits. In contrast, primary cultures of axotomized sensory neurons show high levels of polymodality. After intraplantar treatment with prostaglandin E2, neurons in vivo respond more intensely to noxious thermal and mechanical stimuli, and additional neurons (silent nociceptors) are unmasked. Together, these studies define polymodality as an infrequent feature of nociceptive neurons in normal animals.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ganglion, Action potential, Pain, Sensory system, Nociception, Nociceptor


The striatum is a major input site of the basal ganglia, which play an essential role in decision making. Previous studies have suggested that subareas of the striatum have distinct roles: the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) functions in habitual action, the dorsomedial striatum (DMS) in goal-directed actions, and the ventral striatum (VS) in motivation. To elucidate distinctive functions of subregions of the striatum in decision making, we systematically investigated information represented by phasically active neurons in DLS, DMS, and VS. Rats performed two types of choice tasks: fixed- and free-choice tasks. In both tasks, rats were required to perform nose poking to either the left or right hole after cue-tone presentation. A food pellet was delivered probabilistically depending on the presented cue and the selected action. The reward probability was fixed in fixed-choice task and varied in a block-wise manner in free-choice task. We found the following: (1) when rats began the tasks, a majority of VS neurons increased their firing rates and information regarding task type and state value was most strongly represented in VS; (2) during action selection, information of action and action values was most strongly represented in DMS; (3) action-command information (action representation before action selection) was stronger in the fixed-choice task than in the free-choice task in both DLS and DMS; and (4) action-command information was strongest in DLS, particularly when the same choice was repeated. We propose a hypothesis of hierarchical reinforcement learning in the basal ganglia to coherently explain these results.

Concepts: Nervous system, Ganglion, Ventral tegmental area, Basal ganglia, Acetylcholine, Dopamine, Nucleus accumbens


Peripheral neuropathic pain (PNP) is a debilitating and intractable chronic disease, for which sensitization of somatosensory neurons present in dorsal root ganglia that project to the dorsal spinal cord is a key physiopathological process. Here, we show that hematopoietic cells present at the nerve injury site express the cytokine FL, the ligand of fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 receptor (FLT3). FLT3 activation by intra-sciatic nerve injection of FL is sufficient to produce pain hypersensitivity, activate PNP-associated gene expression and generate short-term and long-term sensitization of sensory neurons. Nerve injury-induced PNP symptoms and associated-molecular changes were strongly altered in Flt3-deficient mice or reversed after neuronal FLT3 downregulation in wild-type mice. A first-in-class FLT3 negative allosteric modulator, discovered by structure-based in silico screening, strongly reduced nerve injury-induced sensory hypersensitivity, but had no effect on nociception in non-injured animals. Collectively, our data suggest a new and specific therapeutic approach for PNP.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Spinal cord, Ganglion, Gene, Signal transduction, Pain, Sensory system