Lipid kinases as therapeutic targets for chronic pain

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Abstract

Existing analgesics are not efficacious in treating all patients with chronic pain and have harmful side effects when used long term. A deeper understanding of pain signaling and sensitization could lead to the development of more efficacious analgesics. Nociceptor sensitization occurs under conditions of inflammation and nerve injury where diverse chemicals are released and signal through receptors to reduce the activation threshold of ion channels, leading to an overall increase in neuronal excitability. Drugs that inhibit specific receptors have so far been unsuccessful in alleviating pain, possibly because they do not simultaneously target the diverse receptors that contribute to nociceptor sensitization. Hence, the focus has shifted toward targeting downstream convergence points of nociceptive signaling. Lipid mediators, including phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2), are attractive targets, as these molecules are required for signaling downstream of G-protein-coupled receptors and receptor tyrosine kinases. Furthermore, PIP2 regulates the activity of various ion channels. Thus, PIP2 sits at a critical convergence point for multiple receptors, ion channels, and signaling pathways that promote and maintain chronic pain. Decreasing the amount of PIP2 in neurons was recently shown to attenuate pronociceptive signaling and could provide a novel approach for treating pain. Here, we review the lipid kinases that are known to regulate pain signaling and sensitization and speculate on which additional lipid kinases might regulate signaling in nociceptive neurons.

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