PACAP and VIP expression in the periaqueductal grey of the rat following sciatic nerve constriction injury

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Journal Article
Neuropeptides, 2019, 74 pp. 60 - 69
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© 2018 Nerve injuries often result in neuropathic pain with co-morbid changes in social behaviours, motivation, sleep-wake cycles and neuroendocrine function. In an animal model of neuropathic injury (CCI) similar co-morbid changes are evoked in a subpopulation (~30%) of injured rats. In addition to anatomical evidence of altered neuronal and glial function, the periaqueductal grey (PAG) of these rats shows evidence of cell death. These changes in the PAG may play a role in the disruption of the normal emotional coping responses triggered by nerve injury. Cell death can occur via a number of mechanisms, including the disruption of neuroprotective mechanisms. Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) are two endogenous neuropeptides whose activities are tightly regulated by two receptors subtypes, namely the PAC1 and VPAC receptors. These peptides and their receptors exert robust neuroprotective roles. In these studies, we hypothesized that rats expressing disabilities following CCI showed altered expression of PACAP and VIP in the PAG. Rats were categorized as having either Pain alone, Transient or Persistent disability, based on changes in social behaviours pre- and post-CCI. Social interaction behavioural tested (BT), sham-injured and naïve untested rats were also included. For measurements of mRNA and protein expression we utilised micro-dissected PAGs blocks taken from each group. At the mRNA level, VIP was downregulated and PAC1 was upregulated in BT animals, whilst VPAC1 mRNA was specifically increased in the Pain alone group. Interestingly, protein levels of both PACAP and VIP were remarkably increased in the Persistent Disability group. Taken together, sciatic nerve CCI that triggers neuropathic pain and persistent disability results in abnormally increased VIP and PACAP expression in the PAG. Our data also suggest that these effects are likely to be governed by post-transcriptional mechanisms.
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