Human autoantibodies to contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CASPR2) are often associated with neuropathic pain, and CASPR2 mutations have been linked to autism spectrum disorders, in which sensory dysfunction is increasingly recognized. Human CASPR2 autoantibodies, when injected into mice, were peripherally restricted and resulted in mechanical pain-related hypersensitivity in the absence of neural injury. We therefore investigated the mechanism by which CASPR2 modulates nociceptive function. Mice lacking CASPR2 (Cntnap2-/-) demonstrated enhanced pain-related hypersensitivity to noxious mechanical stimuli, heat, and algogens. Both primary afferent excitability and subsequent nociceptive transmission within the dorsal horn were increased in Cntnap2-/- mice. Either immune or genetic-mediated ablation of CASPR2 enhanced the excitability of DRG neurons in a cell-autonomous fashion through regulation of Kv1 channel expression at the soma membrane. This is the first example of passive transfer of an autoimmune peripheral neuropathic pain disorder and demonstrates that CASPR2 has a key role in regulating cell-intrinsic dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron excitability.
The deep dorsal horn is a poorly characterized spinal cord region implicated in processing low-threshold mechanoreceptor (LTMR) information. We report an array of mouse genetic tools for defining neuronal components and functions of the dorsal horn LTMR-recipient zone (LTMR-RZ), a role for LTMR-RZ processing in tactile perception, and the basic logic of LTMR-RZ organization. We found an unexpectedly high degree of neuronal diversity in the LTMR-RZ: seven excitatory and four inhibitory subtypes of interneurons exhibiting unique morphological, physiological, and synaptic properties. Remarkably, LTMRs form synapses on between four and 11 LTMR-RZ interneuron subtypes, while each LTMR-RZ interneuron subtype samples inputs from at least one to three LTMR classes, as well as spinal cord interneurons and corticospinal neurons. Thus, the LTMR-RZ is a somatosensory processing region endowed with a neuronal complexity that rivals the retina and functions to pattern the activity of ascending touch pathways that underlie tactile perception.