CGRP and the Calcitonin Receptor are Co-Expressed in Mouse, Rat and Human Trigeminal Ganglia Neurons

Front Physiol. 2022 May 10:13:860037. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.860037. eCollection 2022.


The neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is expressed in the trigeminal ganglia, a key site in craniofacial pain and migraine. CGRP potently activates two receptors: the CGRP receptor and the AMY1 receptor. These receptors are heterodimers consisting of receptor activity-modifying protein 1 (RAMP1) with either the calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CLR) to form the CGRP receptor or the calcitonin receptor (CTR) to form the AMY1 receptor. The expression of the CGRP receptor in trigeminal ganglia has been described in several studies; however, there is comparatively limited data available describing AMY1 receptor expression and in which cellular subtypes it is found. This research aimed to determine the relative distributions of the AMY1 receptor subunit, CTR, and CGRP in neurons or glia in rat, mouse and human trigeminal ganglia. Antibodies against CTR, CGRP and neuronal/glial cell markers were applied to trigeminal ganglia sections to investigate their distribution. CTR-like and CGRP-like immunoreactivity were observed in both discrete and overlapping populations of neurons. In rats and mice, 30-40% of trigeminal ganglia neurons displayed CTR-like immunoreactivity in their cell bodies, with approximately 78-80% of these also containing CGRP-like immunoreactivity. Although human cases were more variable, a similar overall pattern of CTR-like immunoreactivity to rodents was observed in the human trigeminal ganglia. CTR and CGRP appeared to be primarily colocalized in small to medium sized neurons, suggesting that colocalization of CTR and CGRP may occur in C-fiber neurons. CGRP-like or CTR-like immunoreactivity were not typically observed in glial cells. Western blotting confirmed that CTR was expressed in the trigeminal ganglia of all three species. These results confirm that CTR is expressed in trigeminal ganglia neurons. The identification of populations of neurons that express both CGRP and CTR suggests that CGRP could act in an autocrine manner through a CTR-based receptor, such as the AMY1 receptor. Overall, this suggests that a trigeminal ganglia CTR-based receptor may be activated during migraine and could therefore represent a potential target to develop treatments for craniofacial pain and migraine.

Keywords: CGRP—calcitonin gene-related peptide; G protein-coupled receptor; amylin; amylin 1 (AMY1); headache; migraine; trigeminal ganglia.