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Parabrachial Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide Activation of Amygdala Endosomal Extracellular Signal–Regulated Kinase Signaling Regulates the Emotional Component of Pain

      Abstract

      Background

      Chronic pain and stress-related psychopathologies, such as depression and anxiety-associated abnormalities, are mutually reinforcing; however, the neuronal circuits and mechanisms that underlie this reinforcement are still not well understood. Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP; Adcyap1) and its cognate PAC1 receptor (Adcyap1r1) are expressed in peripheral nociceptive pathways, participate in anxiety-related responses and have been have been linked to posttraumatic stress disorder and other mental health afflictions.

      Methods

      Using immunocytochemistry, pharmacological treatments and behavioral testing techniques, we have used a rodent partial sciatic nerve chronic constriction injury model (n = 5–8 per group per experiment) to evaluate PACAP plasticity and signaling in nociceptive and stress-related behaviors.

      Results

      We show that chronic neuropathic pain increases PACAP expression at multiple tiers along the spinoparabrachioamygdaloid tract. Furthermore, chronic constriction injury bilaterally augments nociceptive amygdala (in the central nucleus of the amygdala [CeA]) PACAP immunoreactivity, extracellular signal–regulated kinase phosphorylation, and c-Fos activation, in parallel with heightened anxiety-like behavior and nociceptive hypersensitivity. Acute CeA infusions with the PACAP receptor antagonist PACAP(6-38) blocked chronic constriction injury–induced behavioral responses. Additionally, pretreatments with inhibitors of mitogen-activated protein kinase enzymes or endocytosis to block endosomal PACAP receptor extracellular signal–regulated kinase signaling attenuated PACAP-induced CeA neuronal activation and nociceptive responses.

      Conclusions

      Our data suggest that chronic pain-induced PACAP neuroplasticity and signaling in spinoparabrachioamygdaloid projections have an impact on CeA stress- and nociception-associated maladaptive responses, which can be ameliorated upon receptor antagonism even during injury progression. Thus, the PACAP pathway provides for an important mechanism underlying the intersection of stress and chronic pain pathways via the amygdala.

      Keywords

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