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Chronic pain is a major clinical problem of which the mechanisms are incompletely understood. Here, we describe the concept that PI16, a protein of unknown function mainly produced by fibroblasts, controls neuropathic pain. The spared nerve injury (SNI) model of neuropathic pain increases PI16 protein levels in fibroblasts in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) meninges and in the epi/perineurium of the sciatic nerve. We did not detect PI16 expression in neurons or glia in spinal cord, DRG, and nerve. Mice deficient in PI16 are protected against neuropathic pain. In vitro, PI16 promotes transendothelial leukocyte migration. In vivo, Pi16 -/- mice show reduced endothelial barrier permeability, lower leukocyte infiltration and reduced activation of the endothelial barrier regulator MLCK, and reduced phosphorylation of its substrate MLC2 in response to SNI. In summary, our findings support a model in which PI16 promotes neuropathic pain by mediating a cross-talk between fibroblasts and the endothelial barrier leading to barrier opening, cellular influx, and increased pain. Its key role in neuropathic pain and its limited cellular and tissue distribution makes PI16 an attractive target for pain management.


Pooja Singhmar, Ronnie The Phong Trinh, Jiacheng Ma, XiaoJiao Huo, Bo Peng, Cobi J Heijnen, Annemieke Kavelaars. The fibroblast-derived protein PI16 controls neuropathic pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2020 Mar 10;117(10):5463-5471

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PMID: 32079726

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