MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs that inhibit translation of target genes by binding to their mRNAs. The expression of numerous brain-specific miRNAs with a high degree of temporal and spatial specificity suggests that miRNAs play an important role in gene regulation in health and disease. Here we investigate the time course gene expression profile of miR-1, -16, and -206 in mouse dorsal root ganglion (DRG), and spinal cord dorsal horn under inflammatory and neuropathic pain conditions as well as following acute noxious stimulation.
Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analyses showed that the mature form of miR-1, -16 and -206, is expressed in DRG and the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Moreover, CFA-induced inflammation significantly reduced miRs-1 and -16 expression in DRG whereas miR-206 was downregulated in a time dependent manner. Conversely, in the spinal dorsal horn all three miRNAs monitored were upregulated. After sciatic nerve partial ligation, miR-1 and -206 were downregulated in DRG with no change in the spinal dorsal horn. On the other hand, axotomy increases the relative expression of miR-1, -16, and 206 in a time-dependent fashion while in the dorsal horn there was a significant downregulation of miR-1. Acute noxious stimulation with capsaicin also increased the expression of miR-1 and -16 in DRG cells but, on the other hand, in the spinal dorsal horn only a high dose of capsaicin was able to downregulate miR-206 expression.
Our results indicate that miRNAs may participate in the regulatory mechanisms of genes associated with the pathophysiology of chronic pain as well as the nociceptive processing following acute noxious stimulation. We found substantial evidence that miRNAs are differentially regulated in DRG and the dorsal horn of the spinal cord under different pain states. Therefore, miRNA expression in the nociceptive system shows not only temporal and spatial specificity but is also stimulus-dependent.