Cellular interactions between delta and mu opioid receptors (DORs and MORs), including heteromerization, are thought to regulate opioid analgesia. However, the identity of the nociceptive neurons in which such interactions could occur in vivo remains elusive. Here we show that DOR-MOR co-expression is limited to small populations of excitatory interneurons and projection neurons in the spinal cord dorsal horn and unexpectedly predominates in ventral horn motor circuits. Similarly, DOR-MOR co-expression is rare in parabrachial, amygdalar, and cortical brain regions processing nociceptive information. We further demonstrate that in the discrete DOR-MOR co-expressing nociceptive neurons, the two receptors internalize and function independently. Finally, conditional knockout experiments revealed that DORs selectively regulate mechanical pain by controlling the excitability of somatostatin-positive dorsal horn interneurons. Collectively, our results illuminate the functional organization of DORs and MORs in CNS pain circuits and reappraise the importance of DOR-MOR cellular interactions for developing novel opioid analgesics.
Artemin is a member of the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family that has been strongly implicated in development and regeneration of autonomic nerves and modulation of nociception. Whereas other members of this family (GDNF and neurturin) primarily target parasympathetic and nonpeptidergic sensory neurons, the artemin receptor (GFRα3) is expressed by sympathetic and peptidergic sensory neurons that are also the primary sites of action of nerve growth factor, a powerful modulator of bladder nerves. Many bladder sensory neurons express GFRα3 but it is not known if they represent a specific functional subclass. Therefore, our initial aim was to map the distribution of GFRα3-immunoreactive (-IR) axons in the female rat bladder, using cryostat sections and whole wall thickness preparations. We found that GFRα3-IR axons innervated the detrusor, vasculature, and urothelium, but only part of this innervation was sensory. Many noradrenergic sympathetic axons innervating the vasculature were GFRα3-IR, but the noradrenergic innervation of the detrusor was GFRα3-negative. We also identified a prominent source of nonneuronal GFRα3-IR that is likely to be glial. Further characterization of bladder nerves revealed specific structural features of chemically distinct classes of axon terminals, and a major autonomic source of axons labeled with neurofilament-200, which is commonly used to identify myelinated sensory axons within organs. Intramural neurons were also characterized and quantified. Together, these studies reveal a diverse range of potential targets by which artemin could influence bladder function, nerve regeneration, and pain, and provide a strong microanatomical framework for understanding bladder physiology and pathophysiology.
The nitric oxide (NO)-cGMP pathway is implicated in modulation of visual information processing in the retina. Despite numerous functional studies of this pathway, information about the retinal distribution of the major downstream effector of NO, soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC), is very limited. In the present work, we have used immunohistochemistry and multiple labeling to determine the distribution of sGC in rat retina. sGC was present at high levels in inner retina but barely detectable in outer retina. Photoreceptors and horizontal cells, as well as Müller cells, were immunonegative, whereas retinal ganglion cells exhibited moderate staining for sGC. Strong immunostaining was found in subpopulations of bipolar and amacrine cells, but staining was weak in rod bipolar cells, and AII amacrine cells were immunonegative. Double labeling of sGC with neuronal nitric oxide synthase showed that the two proteins are generally located in adjacent puncta in inner plexiform layer, implying paracrine interactions. Our results suggest that the NO-cGMP pathway modulates the neural circuitry in inner retina, preferentially within the cone pathway.