Dynamic modulation of inflammatory pain-related affective and sensory symptoms by optical control of amygdala metabotropic glutamate receptor 4

Mol Psychiatry. 2018 Mar;23(3):509-520. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.223. Epub 2016 Dec 20.


Contrary to acute pain, chronic pain does not serve as a warning signal and must be considered as a disease per se. This pathology presents a sensory and psychological dimension at the origin of affective and cognitive disorders. Being largely refractory to current pharmacotherapies, identification of endogenous systems involved in persistent and chronic pain is crucial. The amygdala is a key brain region linking pain sensation with negative emotions. Here, we show that activation of a specific intrinsic neuromodulatory system within the amygdala associated with type 4 metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu4) abolishes sensory and affective symptoms of persistent pain such as hypersensitivity to pain, anxiety- and depression-related behaviors, and fear extinction impairment. Interestingly, neuroanatomical and synaptic analysis of the amygdala circuitry suggests that the effects of mGlu4 activation occur outside the central nucleus via modulation of multisensory thalamic inputs to lateral amygdala principal neurons and dorso-medial intercalated cells. Furthermore, we developed optogluram, a small diffusible photoswitchable positive allosteric modulator of mGlu4. This ligand allows the control of endogenous mGlu4 activity with light. Using this photopharmacological approach, we rapidly and reversibly inhibited behavioral symptoms associated with persistent pain through optical control of optogluram in the amygdala of freely behaving animals. Altogether, our data identify amygdala mGlu4 signaling as a mechanism that bypasses central sensitization processes to dynamically modulate persistent pain symptoms. Our findings help to define novel and more precise therapeutic interventions for chronic pain, and exemplify the potential of optopharmacology to study the dynamic activity of endogenous neuromodulatory mechanisms in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basolateral Nuclear Complex / metabolism
  • Chronic Pain / metabolism*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Thalamus / metabolism


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor 4