Molecular mechanisms of neuropathic pain-phenotypic switch and initiation mechanisms

Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Jan;109(1-2):57-77. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2005.06.003. Epub 2005 Jul 15.


Many known painkillers are not always effective in the therapy of chronic neuropathic pain manifested by hyperalgesia and tactile allodynia. The mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain appear to be complicated and to differ from acute and inflammatory pain. Recent advances in pain research provide us with a clear picture for the molecular mechanisms of acute pain, and substantial information is available concerning the plasticity that occurs under conditions of neuropathic pain. The most important changes responsible for the mechanisms of neuropathic pain are found in the altered gene/protein expression in primary sensory neurons. After damage to peripheral sensory fibers, up-regulated expression of the Ca(v)alpha(2)delta-(1) channel subunit, the Na(v)1.3 sodium channel, and bradykinin (BK) B1 and capsaicin TRPV1 receptors in myelinated neurons contribute to hyperalgesia; while the down-regulation of the Na(v)1.8 sodium channel, B2 receptor, substance P (SP), and even mu-opioid receptors in unmyelinated neurons is responsible for the phenotypic switch in pain transmission. Clarification of the molecular mechanisms for such complicated plasticity would be extremely valuable when considering the therapeutic design of pain relieving drugs. Although many reports deal with the changes in expression of key molecules related to neuropathic pain, the initiation and the mechanisms that follow remain to be determined. The current study using lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptor knockout mice revealed that LPA produced by nerve injury initiates neuropathic pain and demyelination following partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSNL). A single injection of LPA was found to mimic PSNL in terms of neuropathic pain and its underlying mechanisms. This discovery may lead to the subsequent discovery of LPA-induced secondary genes, which would be therapeutic targets for neuropathic pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Lysophospholipids / physiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Phenotype


  • Lysophospholipids