Striatal-enriched protein tyrosine phosphatase modulates nociception: evidence from genetic deletion and pharmacological inhibition

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Abstract

The information from nociceptors is processed in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord by complex circuits involving excitatory and inhibitory interneurons. It is well documented that GluN2B and ERK1/2 phosphorylation contributes to central sensitization. Striatal-enriched protein tyrosine phosphatase (STEP) dephosphorylates GluN2B and ERK1/2, promoting internalization of GluN2B and inactivation of ERK1/2. The activity of STEP was modulated by genetic (STEP knockout mice) and pharmacological (recently synthesized STEP inhibitor, TC-2153) approaches. STEP61 protein levels in the lumbar spinal cord were determined in male and female mice of different ages. Inflammatory pain was induced by complete Freund's adjuvant injection. Behavioral tests, immunoblotting, and electrophysiology were used to analyze the effect of STEP on nociception. Our results show that both genetic deletion and pharmacological inhibition of STEP induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia, which were accompanied by increased pGluN2BTyr1472 and pERK1/2Thr202/Tyr204 levels in the lumbar spinal cord. Striatal-enriched protein tyrosine phosphatase heterozygous and knockout mice presented a similar phenotype. Furthermore, electrophysiological experiments showed that TC-2153 increased C fiber-evoked spinal field potentials. Interestingly, we found that STEP61 protein levels in the lumbar spinal cord inversely correlated with thermal hyperalgesia associated with age and female gender in mice. Consistently, STEP knockout mice failed to show age-related thermal hyperalgesia, although gender-related differences were preserved. Moreover, in a model of inflammatory pain, hyperalgesia was associated with increased phosphorylation-mediated STEP61 inactivation and increased pGluN2BTyr1472 and pERK1/2Thr202/Tyr204 levels in the lumbar spinal cord. Collectively, the present results underscore an important role of spinal STEP activity in the modulation of nociception.

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