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Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) is a member of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily. It is widely distributed in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Whether and how GDF-15 modulates nociceptive signaling remains unclear. Behaviorally, we found that peripheral GDF-15 significantly elevated nociceptive response thresholds to mechanical and thermal stimuli in naïve and arthritic rats. Electrophysiologically, we demonstrated that GDF-15 decreased the excitability of small-diameter dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons. Furthermore, GDF-15 concentration-dependently suppressed tetrodotoxin-resistant sodium channel Nav1.8 currents, and shifted the steady-state inactivation curves of Nav1.8 in a hyperpolarizing direction. GDF-15 also reduced window currents and slowed down the recovery rate of Nav1.8 channels, suggesting that GDF-15 accelerated inactivation and slowed recovery of the channel. Immunohistochemistry results showed that activin receptor-like kinase-2 (ALK2) was widely expressed in DRG medium- and small-diameter neurons, and some of them were Nav1.8-positive. Blockade of ALK2 prevented the GDF-15-induced inhibition of Nav1.8 currents and nociceptive behaviors. Inhibition of PKA and ERK, but not PKC, blocked the inhibitory effect of GDF-15 on Nav1.8 currents. These results suggest a functional link between GDF-15 and Nav1.8 in DRG neurons via ALK2 receptors and PKA associated with MEK/ERK, which mediate the peripheral analgesia of GDF-15. © 2021. The Author(s).


Wei Lin, Wen-Wen Zhang, Ning Lyu, Hong Cao, Wen-Dong Xu, Yu-Qiu Zhang. Growth Differentiation Factor-15 Produces Analgesia by Inhibiting Tetrodotoxin-Resistant Nav1.8 Sodium Channel Activity in Rat Primary Sensory Neurons. Neuroscience bulletin. 2021 Sep;37(9):1289-1302

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PMID: 34076854

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