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      Nociceptive transmission and modulation via P2X receptors in central pain syndrome


      Molecular Brain

      BioMed Central

      Central pain syndrome, Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), P2X receptors

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          Painful sensations are some of the most frequent complaints of patients who are admitted to local medical clinics. Persistent pain varies according to its causes, often resulting from local tissue damage or inflammation. Central somatosensory pathway lesions that are not adequately relieved can consequently cause central pain syndrome or central neuropathic pain. Research on the molecular mechanisms that underlie this pathogenesis is important for treating such pain. To date, evidence suggests the involvement of ion channels, including adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-gated cation channel P2X receptors, in central nervous system pain transmission and persistent modulation upon and following the occurrence of neuropathic pain. Several P2X receptor subtypes, including P2X2, P2X3, P2X4, and P2X7, have been shown to play diverse roles in the pathogenesis of central pain including the mediation of fast transmission in the peripheral nervous system and modulation of neuronal activity in the central nervous system. This review article highlights the role of the P2X family of ATP receptors in the pathogenesis of central neuropathic pain and pain transmission. We discuss basic research that may be translated to clinical application, suggesting that P2X receptors may be treatment targets for central pain syndrome.

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          Most cited references 73

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          P2X4 receptors induced in spinal microglia gate tactile allodynia after nerve injury.

          Pain after nerve damage is an expression of pathological operation of the nervous system, one hallmark of which is tactile allodynia-pain hypersensitivity evoked by innocuous stimuli. Effective therapy for this pain is lacking, and the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we report that pharmacological blockade of spinal P2X4 receptors (P2X4Rs), a subtype of ionotropic ATP receptor, reversed tactile allodynia caused by peripheral nerve injury without affecting acute pain behaviours in naive animals. After nerve injury, P2X4R expression increased strikingly in the ipsilateral spinal cord, and P2X4Rs were induced in hyperactive microglia but not in neurons or astrocytes. Intraspinal administration of P2X4R antisense oligodeoxynucleotide decreased the induction of P2X4Rs and suppressed tactile allodynia after nerve injury. Conversely, intraspinal administration of microglia in which P2X4Rs had been induced and stimulated, produced tactile allodynia in naive rats. Taken together, our results demonstrate that activation of P2X4Rs in hyperactive microglia is necessary for tactile allodynia after nerve injury and is sufficient to produce tactile allodynia in normal animals. Thus, blocking P2X4Rs in microglia might be a new therapeutic strategy for pain induced by nerve injury.
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            Altered cytokine production in mice lacking P2X(7) receptors.

            The P2X(7) receptor (P2X(7)R) is an ATP-gated ion channel expressed by monocytes and macrophages. To directly address the role of this receptor in interleukin (IL)-1 beta post-translational processing, we have generated a P2X(7)R-deficient mouse line. P2X(7)R(-/-) macrophages respond to lipopolysaccharide and produce levels of cyclooxygenase-2 and pro-IL-1 beta comparable with those generated by wild-type cells. In response to ATP, however, pro-IL-1 beta produced by the P2X(7)R(-/-) cells is not externalized or activated by caspase-1. Nigericin, an alternate secretion stimulus, promotes release of 17-kDa IL-1 beta from P2X(7)R(-/-) macrophages. In response to in vivo lipopolysaccharide injection, both wild-type and P2X(7)R(-/-) animals display increases in peritoneal lavage IL-6 levels but no detectable IL-1. Subsequent ATP injection to wild-type animals promotes an increase in IL-1, which in turn leads to additional IL-6 production; similar increases did not occur in ATP-treated, LPS-primed P2X(7)R(-/-) animals. Absence of the P2X(7)R thus leads to an inability of peritoneal macrophages to release IL-1 in response to ATP. As a result of the IL-1 deficiency, in vivo cytokine signaling cascades are impaired in P2X(7)R-deficient animals. Together these results demonstrate that P2X(7)R activation can provide a signal that leads to maturation and release of IL-1 beta and initiation of a cytokine cascade.
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              Disruption of the P2X7 purinoceptor gene abolishes chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain.

              The P2X(7) purinoceptor is a ligand-gated cation channel, expressed predominantly by cells of immune origin, with a unique phenotype which includes release of biologically active inflammatory cytokine, interleukin (IL)-1beta following activation, and unique ion channel biophysics observed only in this receptor family. Here we demonstrate that in mice lacking this receptor, inflammatory (in an adjuvant-induced model) and neuropathic (in a partial nerve ligation model) hypersensitivity is completely absent to both mechanical and thermal stimuli, whilst normal nociceptive processing is preserved. The knockout animals were unimpaired in their ability to produce mRNA for pro-IL-1beta, and cytometric analysis of paw and systemic cytokines from knockout and wild-type animals following adjuvant insult suggests a selective effect of the gene deletion on release of IL-1beta and IL-10, with systemic reductions in adjuvant-induced increases in IL-6 and MCP-1. In addition, we show that this receptor is upregulated in human dorsal root ganglia and injured nerves obtained from chronic neuropathic pain patients. We hypothesise that the P2X(7) receptor, via regulation of mature IL-1beta production, plays a common upstream transductional role in the development of pain of neuropathic and inflammatory origin. Drugs which block this target may have the potential to deliver broad-spectrum analgesia.

                Author and article information

                +886-2-26533915 , +886-2-27899224 ,
                Mol Brain
                Mol Brain
                Molecular Brain
                BioMed Central (London )
                26 May 2016
                26 May 2016
                : 9
                Division of Neuroscience, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 11529 Taiwan Republic of China
                © The Author(s). 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, Ministry of Science and Technology;
                Award ID: NSC 99-2320-B-001-016-MY3
                Award ID: NSC 100-2311-B-001-003-MY3
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                © The Author(s) 2016


                central pain syndrome, p2x receptors, adenosine triphosphate (atp)


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