Activation of the Intrinsic Pain Inhibitory Circuit from the Midcingulate Cg2 to Zona Incerta Alleviates Neuropathic Pain

Hu, TT; Wang, RR; Du, Y; Guo, F; Wu, YX; Wang, Y; Wang, S; Li, XY; Zhang, SH; Chen, Z

Chen, Z (reprint author), Zhejiang Univ, Coll Pharmaceut Sci, Inst Pharmacol & Toxicol, Hangzhou 310058, Zhejiang, Peoples R China.; Zhang, SH; Chen, Z (reprint author), Zhejiang Univ, Sch Med, NHC & CAMS Key Lab Med Neurobiol, Hangzhou 310058, Zhejiang,

JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 2019; 39 (46): 9130


Neuropathic pain is one of the most common and notorious neurological diseases. The changes in cerebral structures after nerve injury and the corresponding contributions to neuropathic pain are not well understood. Here we found that the majority of glutamatergic neurons in the area 2 of midcingulate cortex (MCC Cg2(Glu)) were inhibited by painful stimulation in male mice. Optogenetic manipulation revealed that these neurons were tonically involved in the inhibitory modulation of multimodal nociception. We further identified the projections to GABAergic neurons in the zona incerta (ZI(GABA)) mediated the pain inhibitory role. However, MCC Cg2(Glu) became hypoactive after nerve injury. Although a brief activation of the MCC Cg2(Glu) to ZI(GABA) circuit was able to relieve the aversiveness associated with spontaneous ongoing pain, consecutive activation of the circuit was required to alleviate neuropathic allodynia. In contrast, glutamatergic neurons in the area 1 of MCC played opposite roles in pain modulation. They became hyperactive after nerve injury and only consecutive inhibition of their activity relieved allodynia. These results demonstrate that MCC Cg2(Glu) constitute a component of intrinsic pain inhibitory circuitry and their hypoactivity underlies neuropathic pain. We propose that selective and persistent activation of the MCC Cg2(Glu) to ZI(GABA) circuit may serve as a potential therapeutic strategy for this disease.

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