Microglial pannexin-1 channel activation is a spinal determinant of joint pain

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Science Advances  08 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaas9846
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aas9846


Chronic joint pain such as mechanical allodynia is the most debilitating symptom of arthritis, yet effective therapies are lacking. We identify the pannexin-1 (Panx1) channel as a therapeutic target for alleviating mechanical allodynia, a cardinal sign of arthritis. In rats, joint pain caused by intra-articular injection of monosodium iodoacetate (MIA) was associated with spinal adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) release and a microglia-specific up-regulation of P2X7 receptors (P2X7Rs). Blockade of P2X7R or ablation of spinal microglia prevented and reversed mechanical allodynia. P2X7Rs drive Panx1 channel activation, and in rats with mechanical allodynia, Panx1 function was increased in spinal microglia. Specifically, microglial Panx1-mediated release of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) induced mechanical allodynia in the MIA-injected hindlimb. Intrathecal administration of the Panx1-blocking peptide 10panx suppressed the aberrant discharge of spinal laminae I-II neurons evoked by innocuous mechanical hindpaw stimulation in arthritic rats. Furthermore, mice with a microglia-specific genetic deletion of Panx1 were protected from developing mechanical allodynia. Treatment with probenecid, a clinically used broad-spectrum Panx1 blocker, resulted in a striking attenuation of MIA-induced mechanical allodynia and normalized responses in the dynamic weight-bearing test, without affecting acute nociception. Probenecid reversal of mechanical allodynia was also observed in rats 13 weeks after anterior cruciate ligament transection, a model of posttraumatic osteoarthritis. Thus, Panx1-targeted therapy is a new mechanistic approach for alleviating joint pain.

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