The brinker repressor system regulates injury-induced nociceptive sensitization in Drosophila melanogaster

Mol Pain. 2021 Jan-Dec;17:17448069211037401. doi: 10.1177/17448069211037401.


Chronic pain is a debilitating condition affecting millions of people worldwide, and an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of chronic pain is urgently needed. Nociceptors are the sensory neurons that alert the nervous system to potentially harmful stimuli such as mechanical pressure or noxious thermal temperature. When an injury occurs, the nociceptive threshold for pain is reduced and an increased pain signal is produced. This process is called nociceptive sensitization. This sensitization normally subsides after the injury is healed. However, dysregulation can occur which results in sensitization that persists after the injury has healed. This process is thought to perpetuate chronic pain. The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway has been previously implicated in nociceptive sensitization in response to injury in Drosophila melanogaster. Downstream of Hh signaling, the Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) pathway has also been shown to be necessary for this process. Here, we describe a role for nuclear components of BMP's signaling pathway in the formation of injury-induced nociceptive sensitization. Brinker (Brk), and Schnurri (Shn) were suppressed in nociceptors using an RNA-interference (RNAi) "knockdown" approach. Knockdown of Brk resulted in hypersensitivity in the absence of injury, indicating that it normally acts to suppress nociceptive sensitivity. Animals in which transcriptional activator Shn was knocked down in nociceptors failed to develop normal allodynia after ultraviolet irradiation injury, indicating that Shn normally acts to promote hypersensitivity after injury. These results indicate that Brk-related transcription regulators play a crucial role in the formation of nociceptive sensitization and may therefore represent valuable new targets for pain-relieving medications.

Keywords: Nociceptor; RNAi; activator; hypersensitivity; injury; pain; repressor; ultraviolet.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism
  • Nociception / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Transcription Factors