Is Optogenetic Activation of Vglut1-Positive Aβ Low-Threshold Mechanoreceptors Sufficient to Induce Tactile Allodynia in Mice after Nerve Injury?

J Neurosci. 2019 Jul 31;39(31):6202-6215. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2064-18.2019. Epub 2019 May 31.


Mechanical allodynia is a cardinal feature of pathological pain. Recent work has demonstrated the necessity of Aβ-low-threshold mechanoreceptors (Aβ-LTMRs) for mechanical allodynia-like behaviors in mice, but it remains unclear whether these neurons are sufficient to produce pain under pathological conditions. We generated a transgenic mouse in which channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) is conditionally expressed in vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (Vglut1) sensory neurons (Vglut1-ChR2), which is a heterogeneous population of large-sized sensory neurons with features consistent with Aβ-LTMRs. In naive male Vglut1-ChR2 mice, transdermal hindpaw photostimulation evoked withdrawal behaviors in an intensity- and frequency-dependent manner, which were abolished by local anesthetic and selective A-fiber blockade. Surprisingly, male Vglut1-ChR2 mice did not show significant differences in light-evoked behaviors or real-time aversion after nerve injury despite marked hypersensitivity to punctate mechanical stimuli. We conclude that optogenetic activation of cutaneous Vglut1-ChR2 neurons alone is not sufficient to produce pain-like behaviors in neuropathic mice.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Mechanical allodynia, in which innocuous touch is perceived as pain, is a common feature of pathological pain. To test the contribution of low-threshold mechanoreceptors (LTMRs) to nerve-injury-induced mechanical allodynia, we generated and characterized a new transgenic mouse (Vglut1-ChR2) to optogenetically activate cutaneous vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (Vglut1)-positive LTMRs. Using this mouse, we found that light-evoked behaviors were unchanged by nerve injury, which suggests that activation of Vglut1-positive LTMRs alone is not sufficient to produce pain. The Vglut1-ChR2 mouse will be broadly useful for the study of touch, pain, and itch.

Keywords: allodynia; neuropathic; optogenetics; pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology*
  • Optogenetics / methods
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Protein 1 / metabolism*


  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Protein 1