Zhang, X (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, Inst Neurosci, State Key Lab Neurosci, 320 Yue Yang Rd, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,email@example.com
Emerging evidence suggests that the suppressive modulators released from nociceptive afferent neurons contribute to pain regulation. However, the suppressive modulators expressed in small-diameter neurons of the dorsal root ganglion remain to be further identified. The present study shows that the activin C expressed in small dorsal root ganglion neurons is required for suppressing inflammation-induced nociceptive responses. The expression of activin C in small dorsal root ganglion neurons of rats was markedly downregulated during the early days of peripheral inflammation induced by intraplantar injection of the complete Freund's adjuvant. Intrathecal treatment with the small interfering RNA targeting activin beta C or the antibodies against activin C could enhance the formalin-induced nociceptive responses, and impair the recovery from the complete Freund's adjuvant-induced thermal hyperalgesia. Intrathecally applied activin C could reduce nociceptive responses induced by formalin or complete Freund's adjuvant. Moreover, activin C was found to inhibit the inflammation-induced phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase in the dorsal root ganglia and the dorsal spinal cord. Thus, activin C functions as an endogenous suppressor of inflammatory nociceptive transmission and may have a therapeutic potential for treatment of inflammatory pain.