Upregulation of P2X3 receptors by neuronal calcium sensor protein VILIP-1 in dorsal root ganglions contributes to the bone cancer pain in rats

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VILIP-1 interacts with the P2X3 receptor C-terminus and enhances the expression and function of the receptor underlying the hyperexcitation of dorsal root ganglion neurons and cancer-induced bone pain.

Primary and metastatic cancers that affect bone are frequently associated with severe and intractable pain. The mechanisms underlying the development of bone cancer pain are largely unknown. In this study, we first demonstrated that a functional upregulation of P2X3 receptors in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons is closely associated with the neuronal hyperexcitability and the cancer-induced bone pain in MRMT-1 tumor cell–inoculated rats. Second, we revealed that visinin-like protein 1 (VILIP-1), a member of visinin-like proteins that belong to the family of neuronal calcium sensor proteins is responsible for the observed upregulation of P2X3 receptors in DRG neurons. The interaction between the amino terminus of VLIP-1 and the carboxyl terminus of the P2X3 receptor is critical for the surface expression and functional enhancement of the receptor. Finally, overexpression of VILIP-1 increases the expression of functional P2X3 receptors and enhances the neuronal excitability in naive rat DRG neurons. In contrast, knockdown of VILIP-1 inhibits the development of bone cancer pain via downregulation of P2X3 receptors and repression of DRG excitability in MRMT-1 rats. Taken together, these results suggest that functional upregulation of P2X3 receptors by VILIP-1 in DRG neurons contributes to the development of cancer-induced bone pain in MRMT-1 rats. Hence, P2X3 receptors and VILIP-1 could serve as potential targets for therapeutic interventions in cancer patients for pain management. Pharmacological blockade of P2X3 receptors or knockdown of VILIP-1 in DRGs would be used as innovative strategies for the treatment of bone cancer pain.

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