Publication Date



Journal of Neurotrauma


Chronic, often intractable, pain is caused by neuropathic conditions such as traumatic peripheral nerve injury (PNI) and spinal cord injury (SCI). These conditions are associated with alterations in gene and protein expression correlated with functional changes in somatosensory neurons having cell bodies in dorsal root ganglia (DRGs). Most studies of DRG transcriptional alterations have utilized PNI models where axotomy-induced changes important for neural regeneration may overshadow changes that drive neuropathic pain. Both PNI and SCI produce DRG neuron hyperexcitability linked to pain, but contusive SCI produces little peripheral axotomy or peripheral nerve inflammation. Thus, comparison of transcriptional signatures of DRGs across PNI and SCI models may highlight pain-associated transcriptional alterations in sensory ganglia that do not depend on peripheral axotomy or associated effects such as peripheral Wallerian degeneration. Data from our rat thoracic SCI experiments were combined with meta-analysis of published whole-DRG RNA-seq datasets from prominent rat PNI models. Striking differences were found between transcriptional responses to PNI and SCI, especially in regeneration-associated genes (RAGs) and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). Many transcriptomic changes after SCI also were found after corresponding sham surgery, indicating they were caused by injury to surrounding tissue, including bone and muscle, rather than to the spinal cord itself. Another unexpected finding was of few transcriptomic similarities between rat neuropathic pain models and the only reported transcriptional analysis of human DRGs linked to neuropathic pain. These findings show that DRGs exhibit complex transcriptional responses to central and peripheral neural injury and associated tissue damage. Although only a few genes in DRG cells exhibited similar changes in expression across all the painful conditions examined here, these genes may represent a core set whose transcription in various DRG cell types is sensitive to significant bodily injury, and which may play a fundamental role in promoting neuropathic pain.


Rats, Humans, Animals, Ganglia, Spinal, Neuralgia, Spinal Cord Injuries, Spinal Cord, Neurons, axotomy, differentially expressed genes, inflammation, regeneration, sensory neurons



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