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1 Janelia Publications

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    01/31/17 | A brainstem-spinal cord inhibitory circuit for mechanical pain modulation by GABA and Enkephalins.
    François A, Low SA, Sypek EI, Christensen AJ, Sotoudeh C, Beier KT, Ramakrishnan C, Ritola KD, Sharif-Naeini R, Deisseroth K, Delp SL, Malenka RC, Luo L, Hantman AW, Scherrer G
    Neuron. 2017 Jan 31;93(4):822-39. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.01.008

    Pain thresholds are, in part, set as a function of emotional and internal states by descending modulation of nociceptive transmission in the spinal cord. Neurons of the rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) are thought to critically contribute to this process; however, the neural circuits and synaptic mechanisms by which distinct populations of RVM neurons facilitate or diminish pain remain elusive. Here we used in vivo opto/chemogenetic manipulations and trans-synaptic tracing of genetically identified dorsal horn and RVM neurons to uncover an RVM-spinal cord-primary afferent circuit controlling pain thresholds. Unexpectedly, we found that RVM GABAergic neurons facilitate mechanical pain by inhibiting dorsal horn enkephalinergic/GABAergic interneurons. We further demonstrate that these interneurons gate sensory inputs and control pain through temporally coordinated enkephalin- and GABA-mediated presynaptic inhibition of somatosensory neurons. Our results uncover a descending disynaptic inhibitory circuit that facilitates mechanical pain, is engaged during stress, and could be targeted to establish higher pain thresholds.

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