Involvement of EphB1 Receptors Signalling in Models of Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain

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EphB receptors tyrosine kinases and ephrinB ligands were first identified as guidance molecules involved in the establishment of topographical mapping and connectivity in the nervous system during development. Later in development and into adulthood their primary role would switch from guidance to activity-dependent modulation of synaptic efficacy. In sensory systems, they play a role in both the onset of inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and in the establishment of central sensitisation, an NMDA-mediated form of synaptic plasticity thought to underlie most forms of chronic pain. We studied wild type and EphB1 knockout mice in a range of inflammatory and neuropathic pain models to determine 1), whether EphB1 expression is necessary for the onset and/or maintenance of persistent pain, regardless of origin; 2), whether in these models cellular and molecular changes, e.g. phosphorylation of the NR2B subunit of the NMDA receptor, increased c-fos expression or microglial activation, associated with the onset of pain, are affected by the lack of functional EphB1 receptors. Differences in phenotype were examined behaviourally, anatomically, biochemically and electrophysiologically. Our results establish firstly, that functional EphB1 receptors are not essential for the development of normal nociception, thermal or mechanical sensitivity. Secondly, they demonstrate a widespread involvement of EphB1 receptors in chronic pain. NR2B phosphorylation, c-fos expression and microglial activation are all reduced in EphB1 knockout mice. This last finding is intriguing, since microglial activation is supposedly triggered directly by primary afferents, therefore it was not expected to be affected. Interestingly, in some models of long-term pain (days), mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia develop both in wild type and EphB1 knockout mice, but recovery is faster in the latter, indicating that in particular models these receptors are required for the maintenance, rather than the onset of, thermal and mechanical hypersensitivity. This potentially makes them an attractive target for analgesic strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere53673
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2013


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