Notch signaling is activated in knee-innervating dorsal root ganglia in experimental models of osteoarthritis joint pain

Arthritis Res Ther. 2023 Apr 15;25(1):63. doi: 10.1186/s13075-023-03039-1.


Background: We aimed to explore activation of the Notch signaling pathway in knee-innervating lumbar dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in the course of experimental osteoarthritis (OA) in mice, and its role in knee hyperalgesia.

Methods: Cultured DRG cells were stimulated with the TLR4 agonist, lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Notch signaling in the cells was either inhibited with the γ-secretase inhibitor, DAPT, or with soluble Jagged1, or activated through immobilized Jagged1. CCL2 production was analyzed at mRNA and protein levels. In in vivo experiments, knee hyperalgesia was induced in naïve mice through intra-articular (IA) injection of LPS. The effect of inhibiting Notch signaling was examined by pre-injecting DAPT one hour before LPS. OA was induced through surgical destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) in male C57BL/6 mice. Gene expression in DRG was analyzed by qRT-PCR and RNAscope in situ hybridization. Activated Notch protein (NICD) expression in DRG was evaluated by ELISA and immunofluorescence staining. DAPT was injected IA 12 weeks post DMM to inhibit Notch signaling, followed by assessing knee hyperalgesia and CCL2 expression in the DRG.

Results: In DRG cell cultures, LPS increased NICD in neuronal cells. Inhibition of Notch signaling with either DAPT or soluble Jagged1 attenuated LPS-induced increases of Ccl2 mRNA and CCL2 protein. Conversely, activating Notch signaling with immobilized Jagged1 enhanced these LPS effects. In vivo, IA injection of LPS increased expression of Notch genes and NICD in the DRG. Pre-injection of DAPT prior to LPS alleviated LPS-induced knee hyperalgesia, and decreased LPS-induced CCL2 expression in the DRG. Notch signaling genes were differentially expressed in the DRG from late-stage experimental OA. Notch1, Hes1, and NICD were increased in the neuronal cell bodies in DRG after DMM surgery. IA administration of DAPT alleviated knee hyperalgesia post DMM, and decreased CCL2 expression in the DRG.

Conclusions: These findings suggest a synergistic effect of Notch signaling with TLR4 in promoting CCL2 production and mediating knee hyperalgesia. Notch signaling is activated in knee-innervating lumbar DRG in mice with experimental OA, and is involved in mediating knee hyperalgesia. The pathway may therefore be explored as a target for alleviating OA pain.

Keywords: Dorsal root ganglia; Mouse model; Notch signaling; Osteoarthritis; Pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthralgia
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Hyperalgesia*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Osteoarthritis* / metabolism
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger