Pannexin-1 Upregulation in the Dorsal Root Ganglion Contributes to Neuropathic Pain Development [Neurobiology]

April 29th, 2015 by Zhang, Y., Laumet, G., Chen, S.-R., Hittelman, W. N., Pan, H.-L.

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. Immunocytochemical labeling showed that Panx1 was primarily expressed in a subset of medium and large DRG neurons in control rats and that nerve injury markedly increased the number of Panx1-immunoreactive DRG neurons. Nerve injury significantly increased the enrichment of two activating histone marks (H3K4me2 and H3K9ac) and decreased the occupancy of two repressive histone marks (H3K9me2 and H3K27me3) around the promoter region of Panx1 in the DRG. However, nerve injury had no effect on the DNA methylation level around the Panx1 promoter in the DRG. Furthermore, intrathecal injection of the Panx1 blockers or Panx1-specific siRNA significantly reduced pain hypersensitivity induced by nerve injury. In addition, siRNA knockdown of Panx1 expression in a DRG cell line significantly reduced caspase-1 release induced by neuronal depolarization. Our findings suggest that nerve injury increases Panx1 expression levels in the DRG through altered histone modifications. Panx1 upregulation contributes to the development of neuropathic pain and stimulation of inflammasome signaling.