While group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and ionotropic N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors regulate nociception, the precise molecular mechanism(s) contributing to glutamate signaling in chronic pain remain unclear. Here we not only confirmed the key involvement of Homer proteins in neuropathic pain, but also distinguished between the functional roles for different Homer family members and isoforms. Chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve induced long-lasting, time-dependent increases in the postsynaptic density expression of the constitutively expressed (CC) isoforms Homer1b/c and/or Homer2a/b in the spinal dorsal horn and supraspinal structures involved in nociception (prefrontal cortex, thalamus), that co-occurred with increases in their associated mGluRs, NR2 subunits of the NMDA receptor, and the activation of downstream kinases. Virus-mediated overexpression of Homer1c and Homer2b after spinal (intrathecal) virus injection exacerbated CCI-induced mechanical and cold hypersensitivity, however, Homer1 and Homer2 gene knockout (KO) mice displayed no changes in their neuropathic phenotype. In contrast, overexpression of the immediate early gene (IEG) Homer1a isoform reduced, while KO of Homer1a gene potentiated neuropathic pain hypersensitivity. Thus, nerve injury-induced increases in CC-Homers expression promote pain in pathological states, but IEG-Homer induction protects against both the development and maintenance of neuropathy. Additionally, exacerbated pain hypersensitivity in transgenic mice with reduced Homer binding to mGluR5 supports also an inhibitory role for Homer interactions with mGluR5 in mediating neuropathy. Such data indicate that nerve injury-induced changes in glutamate receptor/Homer signaling contribute in dynamic but distinct ways to neuropathic pain processing, which has relevance for the etiology of chronic pain symptoms and its treatment.
- Homer proteins Group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors NMDA receptors Spinal cord Neuropathic pain
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine