Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a key immune mediator regulating migration of immune cells to sites of inflammation. S1P actions are mediated by a family of five G protein-coupled receptors. Sensory neurons express many of these receptors, and in vitro S1P has excitatory effects on small-diameter sensory neurons, many mediated by the S1P receptor 1 (S1PR1). This study investigated the role of S1P in regulating the sensitivity of DRG neurons. We found that in vivo perfusion of the normal L5 DRG with S1P increased mechanical sensitivity. Microelectrode recordings in isolated whole ganglia showed that large- and medium-diameter cells, as well as small-diameter cells, increased firing in the presence of S1P. To further determine the role of S1PRs, we examined the effects of in vivo S1PR1 knockdown in the L4 and L5 sensory ganglia. Small interfering RNA directed against S1PR1 did not affect baseline mechanical sensitivity in normal animals, in which S1P levels are expected to be low. However, when the L5 ganglion was locally inflamed, a procedure that leads to rapid and sustained mechanical hypersensitivity, S1PR1 siRNA injected animals showed significantly less hypersensitivity than animals injected with scrambled siRNA. Reduced expression of S1PR1, but not S1PR2 or S1PR3, was confirmed with qPCR methods. The results indicate that the S1PR1 receptors in sensory ganglia cells may play an important role in regulating behavioral sensitivity during inflammation.
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