Translation regulation in the spinal dorsal horn - A key mechanism for development of chronic pain

Neurobiol Pain. Aug-Dec 2018;4:20-26. doi: 10.1016/j.ynpai.2018.03.003. Epub 2018 Apr 3.


Chronic pain is a pathological condition characterized by long-lasting pain after damaged tissue has healed. Chronic pain can be caused and maintained by changes in various components of the pain pathway, including sensory neurons, spinal cord and higher brain centers. Exaggerated sensitivity and responsiveness of spinal nociceptive circuits, representing maladaptive plasticity, play key roles in the amplification of peripheral signals in chronic pain conditions. This spinal amplification mechanism profoundly contributes to the development and maintenance of chronic pain hypersensitivity in response to peripheral injury, and in some cases occurs independently of the peripheral stimulus. Long-lasting changes in the activity of spinal neurons are caused by alterations in their cellular proteome, which relies on de novo gene expression. Recent evidence indicates that translational control of gene expression plays a major role in determining protein levels, and is intricately involved in different forms of intrinsic and synaptic plasticity. In this review, we summarize findings supporting a key role for translational control in spinal cord-dependent mechanisms of chronic pain, and present recent approaches to reverse persistent pain by targeting these mechanisms.