Li Z, He SQ, Xu Q, Yang F, Tiwari V, Liu Q, et al. Pain. 2014;155(8):1613-21.
Mas-related G-protein-coupled receptor subtype C (mouse MrgC11 and rat rMrgC), expressed specifically in small-diameter primary sensoryneurons, may constitute a novel pain inhibitory mechanism. We have shown previously that intrathecal administration of MrgC-selective agonists can strongly attenuate persistent pain in various animal models. However, the underlying mechanisms for MrgC agonist-induced analgesia remain elusive. Here, we conducted patch-clamp recordings to test the effect of MrgC agonists on high-voltage-activated (HVA) calcium current in small-diameter dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Using pharmacological approaches, we show for the first time that an MrgC agonist (JHU58) selectively and dose-dependently inhibits N-type, but not L- or P/Q-type, HVA calcium channels in mouse DRG neurons. Activation of HVAcalcium channels is important to neurotransmitter release and synaptic transmission. Patch-clamp recordings in spinal cord slices showed that JHU58 attenuated the evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents in substantia gelatinosa (SG) neurons in wild-type mice, but not in Mrg knockoutmice, after peripheral nerve injury. These findings indicate that activation of endogenously expressed MrgC receptors at central terminals ofprimary sensory fibers may decrease peripheral excitatory inputs onto SG neurons. Together, these results suggest potential cellular and molecular mechanisms that may contribute to intrathecal MrgC agonist-induced analgesia. Because MrgC shares substantial genetic homogeneity with human MrgX1, our findings may suggest a rationale for developing intrathecally delivered MrgX1 receptor agonists to treat pathological pain in humans and provide critical insight regarding potential mechanisms that may underlie its analgesic effects.