In chronic pain states, the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) transforms the output of lamina I spinal neurons by decreasing synaptic inhibition. Pain hypersensitivity also depends on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) and Src-family kinases, but the locus of NMDAR dysregulation remains unknown. Here, we show that NMDAR-mediated currents at lamina I synapses are potentiated in a peripheral nerve injury model of neuropathic pain. We find that BDNF mediates NMDAR potentiation through activation of TrkB and phosphorylation of the GluN2B subunit by the Src-family kinase Fyn. Surprisingly, we find that Cl--dependent disinhibition is necessary and sufficient to prime potentiation of synaptic NMDARs by BDNF. Thus, we propose that spinal pain amplification is mediated by a feedforward mechanism whereby loss of inhibition gates the increase in synaptic excitation within individual lamina I neurons. Given that neither disinhibition alone nor BDNF-TrkB signaling is sufficient to potentiate NMDARs, we have discovered a form of molecular coincidence detection in lamina I neurons.
Keywords: BDNF; Fyn; GluN2B; KCC2; NMDA receptor; TrkB; disinhibition; dorsal horn; lamina I; pain.
Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.