Analgesic effect of central relaxin receptor activation on persistent inflammatory pain in mice: behavioral and neurochemical data

Cynthia Abboud, Louison Brochoire, Adèle Drouet, M. Akhter Hossain, Walid Hleihel, Andrew L. Gundlach, Marc Landry
PR9. 2021-06-16; 6(2): e937
DOI: 10.1097/pr9.0000000000000937

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The relaxin peptide signaling system is involved in diverse physiological processes, but its possible roles in the brain, including nociception, are largely unexplored.

In light of abundant expression of relaxin receptor (RXFP1) mRNA/protein in brain regions involved in pain processing, we investigated the effects of central RXFP1 activation on nociceptive behavior in a mouse model of inflammatory pain and examined the neurochemical phenotype and connectivity of relaxin and RXFP1 mRNA-positive neurons.

Mice were injected with Complete Freund Adjuvant (CFA) into a hind paw. After 4 days, the RXFP1 agonist peptides, H2-relaxin or B7-33, ± the RXFP1 antagonist, B-R13/17K-H2, were injected into the lateral cerebral ventricle, and mechanical and thermal sensitivity were assessed at 30 to 120 minutes. Relaxin and RXFP1 mRNA in excitatory and inhibitory neurons were examined using multiplex, fluorescent in situ hybridization. Relaxin-containing neurons were detected using immunohistochemistry and their projections assessed using fluorogold retrograde tract-tracing.

Both H2-relaxin and B7-33 produced a strong, but transient, reduction in mechanical and thermal sensitivity of the CFA-injected hind paw alone, at 30 minutes postinjection. Notably, coinjection of B-R13/17K-H2 blocked mechanical, but not thermal, analgesia. In the claustrum, cingulate cortex, and subiculum, RXFP1 mRNA was expressed in excitatory neurons. Relaxin immunoreactivity was detected in neurons in forebrain and midbrain areas involved in pain processing and sending projections to the RXFP1-rich, claustrum and cingulate cortex. No changes were detected in CFA mice.

Our study identified a previously unexplored peptidergic system that can control pain processing in the brain and produce analgesia.

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