Background: Neuropathic pain is caused by sensory nerve injury, but effective treatments are currently lacking. Microglia are activated in the spinal dorsal horn after sensory nerve injury and contribute to neuropathic pain. Accordingly, molecules expressed by these cells are considered potential targets for therapeutic strategies. Our previous gene screening study using a mouse model of motor nerve injury showed that the G-protein-coupled receptor 34 gene (GPR34) is induced by nerve injury. Because GPR34 is now considered a microglia-enriched gene, we explored the possibility that it might be involved in microglial activation in the dorsal horn in a mouse model of neuropathic pain. Methods: mRNA expression of GPR34 and pro-inflammatory molecules was determined by quantitative real-time PCR in wild-type and GPR34-deficient mice with L4 spinal nerve injury. In situ hybridization was used to identify GPR34 expression in microglia, and immunohistochemistry with the microglial marker Iba1 was performed to examine microglial numbers and morphology. Mechanical sensitivity was evaluated by the von Frey hair test. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry quantified expression of the ligand for GPR34, lysophosphatidylserine (LysoPS), in the dorsal horn, and a GPR34 antagonist was intrathecally administrated to examine the effect of inhibiting LysoPS-GPR34 signaling on mechanical sensitivity. Results: GPR34 was predominantly expressed by microglia in the dorsal horn after L4 nerve injury. There were no histological differences in microglial numbers or morphology between WT and GPR34-deficient mice. However, nerve injury-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression levels in microglia and pain behaviors were significantly attenuated in GPR34-deficient mice. Furthermore, the intrathecal administration of the GPR34 antagonist reduced neuropathic pain. Conclusions: Inhibition of GPR34-mediated signal by GPR34 gene deletion reduced nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain by suppressing pro-inflammatory responses of microglia without affecting their morphology. Therefore, the suppression of GPR34 activity may have therapeutic potential for alleviating neuropathic pain.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience