The PACAP pathway is independent of CGRP in mouse models of migraine: possible new drug target?

Brain. 2022 Jul 29;145(7):2450-2460. doi: 10.1093/brain/awac040.


Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-antagonizing drugs represent a major advance in migraine treatment. However, up to 50% of patients do not benefit from monoclonal antibodies against CGRP or its receptor. Here, we test the hypothesis that a closely related peptide, pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP-38), works independently of CGRP and thus might represent a new, alternative drug target. To understand differences in CGRP- and PACAP-mediated migraine pain, we used mouse models of provoked migraine-like pain based on multiple stimulations and subsequent measurement of tactile sensitivity response with von Frey filaments. Genetically modified mice lacking either functional CGRP receptors (Ramp1 knockout) or TRPA1 channels (Trpa1 knockout) were used together with CGRP-targeting antibodies and chemical inhibitors in wild-type mice (ntotal = 299). Ex vivo myograph studies were used to measure dilatory responses to CGRP and PACAP-38 in mouse carotid arteries. PACAP-38 provoked significant hypersensitivity and dilated the carotid arteries independently of CGRP. In contrast, glyceryl trinitrate-induced hypersensitivity is dependent on CGRP. Contrary to previous results with the migraine-inducing substances glyceryl trinitrate, cilostazol and levcromakalim, PACAP-38-induced hypersensitivity worked only partially through inhibition of ATP-sensitive potassium channels. Using multiple migraine-relevant models, these findings establish the PACAP-38 pathway as distinct from other migraine provoking pathways such as CGRP and glyceryl trinitrate. PACAP antagonism may therefore be a novel therapeutic target of particular interest in patients unresponsive to CGRP-antagonizing drugs.

Keywords: CGRP-independent; PACAP; PACAP-38; migraine; mouse model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide* / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Mice
  • Migraine Disorders* / chemically induced
  • Nitroglycerin / adverse effects
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / metabolism


  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide