Aims Insular cortex is a brain region critical for processing of the sensation. Purinergic receptors are involved in the formation of chronic pain. The aim of the present study was to explore the role and mechanism of P2X3 receptors (P2X3Rs) in insular cortex in chronic visceral pain. Methods Chronic visceral pain in adult rats was induced by neonatal maternal deprivation and measured by detecting the threshold of colorectal distension. Western blotting, immunofluorescence, and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction techniques were used to detect the expression and distribution of P2X3Rs. Synaptic transmission in insular cortex was recorded in brain slices by patch clamp techniques. Results Expression of P2X3Rs both at mRNA and protein levels in right hemisphere of insular cortex was significantly increased in neonatal maternal deprivation rats. In addition, P2X3Rs were expressed with NeuN or synaptophysin but not with glial fibrillary acidic protein and CD11b. The co-localization of P2X3Rs with NeuN or synaptophysin was greatly enhanced in right hemisphere of insular cortex in neonatal maternal deprivation rats. Furthermore, neonatal maternal deprivation markedly increased both the frequency and amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic current in right hemisphere of insular cortex. Incubation of A347091 significantly decreased the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic current and miniature excitatory postsynaptic current of insular cortex neurons of neonatal maternal deprivation rats. Incubation of P2X3Rs agonists α,β-mATP remarkably increased the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic current and miniature excitatory postsynaptic current of the right hemisphere of insular cortex neurons of healthy control rats. Importantly, injection of A317491 significantly enhanced the colorectal distension threshold of neonatal maternal deprivation rats, while injection of α,β-mATP into right but not left insular cortex markedly decreased the colorectal distension threshold in healthy control rats. Conclusions Overall, our data provide integrated pharmacological, biochemical, and functional evidence demonstrating that P2X3Rs are physically and functionally interconnected at the presynaptic level to control synaptic activities in the right insular cortex, thus contributing to visceral pain of neonatal maternal deprivation rats.
Keywords: P2X3 receptors; Visceral pain; insular cortex; neonatal maternal deprivation; synaptic transmission.