Bortezomib induces neuropathic pain through protein kinase C-mediated activation of presynaptic NMDA receptors in the spinal cord

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Chemotherapeutic drugs, including bortezomib, often cause painful peripheral neuropathy, which is a severe dose-limiting adverse effect experienced by many cancer patients. The glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) at the spinal cord level are critically involved in the synaptic plasticity associated with neuropathic pain. In this study, we determined whether treatment with bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, affects the NMDAR activity of spinal dorsal horn neurons. Systemic treatment with bortezomib in rats did not significantly affect postsynaptic NMDAR currents elicited by puff application of NMDA directly to dorsal horn neurons. Bortezomib treatment markedly increased the baseline frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs), which was completely normalized by the NMDAR antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (AP5). AP5 also reduced the amplitude of monosynaptic EPSCs evoked by dorsal root stimulation in bortezomib-treated, but not vehicle-treated, rats. Furthermore, inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC) with chelerythrine fully reversed the increased frequency of miniature EPSCs and the amplitude of evoked EPSCs in bortezomib-treated rats. Intrathecal injection of AP5 and chelerythrine both profoundly attenuated mechanical allodynia and hyperalgesia induced by systemic treatment with bortezomib. In addition, treatment with bortezomib induced striking membrane translocation of PKC-βII, PKC-δ, and PKC-ε in the dorsal root ganglion. Our findings indicate that bortezomib treatment potentiates nociceptive input from primary afferent nerves via PKC-mediated tonic activation of presynaptic NMDARs. Targeting presynaptic NMDARs and PKC at the spinal cord level may be an effective strategy for treating chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.

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