Activin acutely sensitizes dorsal root ganglion neurons and induces hyperalgesia via PKC-mediated potentiation of transient receptor potential vanilloid I

J Neurosci. 2007 Dec 12;27(50):13770-80. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3822-07.2007.


Pain hypersensitivity is a cardinal sign of tissue damage, but how molecules from peripheral tissues affect sensory neuron physiology is incompletely understood. Previous studies have shown that activin A increases after peripheral injury and is sufficient to induce acute nociceptive behavior and increase pain peptides in sensory ganglia. This study was designed to test the possibility that the enhanced nociceptive responsiveness associated with activin involved sensitization of transient receptor potential vanilloid I (TRPV1) in primary sensory neurons. Activin receptors were found widely distributed among adult sensory neurons, including those that also express the capsaicin receptor. Whole-cell patch-clamp recording from sensory neurons showed that activin acutely sensitized capsaicin responses and depended on activin receptor kinase activity. Pharmacological studies revealed that the activin sensitization of capsaicin responses required PKCepsilon signaling, but not PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase), ERK (extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase), PKA, PKCalpha/beta, or Src. Furthermore, activin administration caused acute thermal hyperalgesia in wild-type mice, but not in TRPV1-null mice. These data suggest that activin signals through its own receptor, involves PKCepsilon signaling to sensitize the TRPV1 channel, and contributes to acute thermal hyperalgesia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activin Receptors / genetics
  • Activin Receptors / metabolism
  • Activins / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Hyperalgesia / chemically induced
  • Hyperalgesia / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Protein Kinase C-epsilon / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C-epsilon / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • TRPV Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPV Cation Channels / metabolism*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 protein, mouse
  • Trpv1 protein, rat
  • activin A
  • Activins
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Protein Kinase C-epsilon
  • Activin Receptors