Background: Prolonged intracellular calcium elevation contributes to sensitization of nociceptors and chronic pain in inflammatory conditions. The underlying molecular mechanisms remain unknown but store-operated calcium entry (SOCE) components participate in calcium homeostasis, potentially playing a significant role in chronic pain pathologies. Most G protein-coupled receptors activated by inflammatory mediators trigger calcium-dependent signaling pathways and stimulate SOCE in primary afferents. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of TRPC3, a calcium-permeable non-selective cation channel coupled to phospholipase C and highly expressed in DRG, as a link between activation of pro-inflammatory metabotropic receptors and SOCE in nociceptive pathways.
Results: Using in situ hybridization, we determined that TRPC3 and TRPC1 constitute the major TRPC subunits expressed in adult rat DRG. TRPC3 was found localized exclusively in small and medium diameter sensory neurons. Heterologous overexpression of TRPC3 channel subunits in cultured primary DRG neurons evoked a significant increase of Gd3+-sensitive SOCE following thapsigargin-induced calcium store depletion. Conversely, using the same calcium add-back protocol, knockdown of endogenous TRPC3 with shRNA-mediated interference or pharmacological inhibition with the selective TRPC3 antagonist Pyr10 induced a substantial decrease of SOCE, indicating a significant role of TRPC3 in SOCE in DRG nociceptors. Activation of P2Y2 purinoceptors or PAR2 protease receptors triggered a strong increase in intracellular calcium in conditions of TRPC3 overexpression. Additionally, knockdown of native TRPC3 or its selective pharmacological blockade suppressed UTP- or PAR2 agonist-evoked calcium responses as well as sensitization of DRG neurons. These data show a robust link between activation of pro-inflammatory receptors and calcium homeostasis through TRPC3-containing channels operating both in receptor- and store-operated mode.
Conclusions: Our findings highlight a major contribution of TRPC3 to neuronal calcium homeostasis in somatosensory pathways based on the unique ability of these cation channels to engage in both SOCE and receptor-operated calcium influx. This is the first evidence for TRPC3 as a SOCE component in DRG neurons. The flexible role of TRPC3 in calcium signaling as well as its functional coupling to pro-inflammatory metabotropic receptors involved in peripheral sensitization makes it a potential target for therapeutic strategies in chronic pain conditions.