The contribution of endocytosis to sensitization of nociceptors and synaptic transmission in nociceptive circuits

Raquel Tonello, Wayne Anderson, Steve Davidson, Virginie Escriou, Lei Yang, Brian Schmidt, Wendy Imlach (Leading Author), Nigel Bunnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Chronic pain involves sensitization of nociceptors and synaptic transmission of painful signals in nociceptive circuits in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. We investigated the contribution of clathrin-dependent endocytosis to sensitization of nociceptors by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and to synaptic transmission in spinal nociceptive circuits. We determined whether therapeutic targeting of endocytosis could ameliorate pain. mRNA encoding dynamin (Dnm) 1 to 3 and adaptor-associated protein kinase 1 (AAK1), which mediate clathrin-dependent endocytosis, were localized to primary sensory neurons of dorsal root ganglia of mouse and human and to spinal neurons in the dorsal horn of the mouse spinal cord by RNAScope. When injected intrathecally to mice, Dnm and AAK1 siRNA or shRNA knocked down Dnm and AAK1 mRNA in dorsal root ganglia neurons, reversed mechanical and thermal allodynia and hyperalgesia, and normalized nonevoked behavior in preclinical models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Intrathecally administered inhibitors of clathrin, Dnm, and AAK1 also reversed allodynia and hyperalgesia. Disruption of clathrin, Dnm, and AAK1 did not affect normal motor functions of behaviors. Patch clamp recordings of dorsal horn neurons revealed that Dnm1 and AAK1 disruption inhibited synaptic transmission between primary sensory neurons and neurons in lamina I/II of the spinal cord dorsal horn by suppressing release of synaptic vesicles from presynaptic primary afferent neurons. Patch clamp recordings from dorsal root ganglion nociceptors indicated that Dnm siRNA prevented sustained GPCR-mediated sensitization of nociceptors. By disrupting synaptic transmission in the spinal cord and blunting sensitization of nociceptors, endocytosis inhibitors offer a therapeutic approach for pain treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1355-1374
Number of pages20
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • Endocytosis
  • GPCR
  • Neurotransmission
  • Sensitization
  • Synapse

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