Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Science)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Bradley K. Taylor


Inflammation or nerve injury sensitizes several populations of nociceptive neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, including those that express the neuropeptide Y (NPY) Y1 receptor (Y1R). Our overall hypothesis is that after tissue or nerve injury, these Y1R-expressing neurons enter a state of latent sensitization (LS) that contributes to vulnerability to the development of chronic pain; furthermore, LS is under the tonic inhibitory control of endogenous Y1R signaling. First, we evaluated the intracellular signaling pathways that become activated in Y1R-expressing neurons and participate in LS. To do this, we established behavioral models of inflammatory or neuropathic pain, allowed pain hypersensitivity to resolve, and then during this period of pain remission we administered the Y1R receptor antagonist, BIBO3304, by intrathecal injection. As observed previously with mu-opioid receptor antagonists/inverse agonists, we found that BIBO3304 reinstated pain hypersensitivity via an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)- and adenylyl cyclase type 1 (AC1)-dependent mechanism. Our subsequent behavioral pharmacological experiments then established two signaling pathways downstream of AC1 that maintain LS. The first pathway involves protein kinase A (PKA) and transient receptor potential cation channel A1 (TRPA1) and channel V1 (TRPV1). The second pathway involves exchange proteins activated by cAMP (Epac 1 and Epac 2). We next found that nerve injury decreases the co-expression of Y1R with markers of excitatory interneurons, suggesting that Y1R-expressing neurons acquire a pain-enhancing phenotype after peripheral nerve injury. In a separate set of experiments that utilized Y1R-receptor internalization as an index of NPY release, we found that nerve injury increased stimulus-evoked NPY release. We conclude that injury induces pain-facilitatory mechanisms of LS in the dorsal horn involving PKA→TRPA1 and PKA→TRPV1 at the central terminals of primary afferent neurons. Whether Epac mechanisms are located on these same presynaptic terminals and/or at Y1R-expressing excitatory interneurons remain to be determined. We also conclude that injury-induced LS is masked by a compensatory up-regulation of spinal NPY release that tonically inhibits pain. These results present a novel mechanism of injury-induced LS and endogenous control of the transition from acute to chronic pain by the NPY-Y1R system. Our work sheds light on novel targets for the treatment of chronic pain.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)