Haploinsufficiency of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene is associated with reduced pain sensitivity

Rare pain-insensitive individuals offer unique insights into how pain circuits function and have led to the development of new strategies for pain control. We investigated pain sensitivity in humans with WAGR (Wilms tumor, aniridia, genitourinary anomaly, and range of intellectual disabilities) syndrome, who have variably sized heterozygous deletion of the 11p13 region. The deletion region can be inclusive or exclusive of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene, a crucial trophic factor for nociceptive afferents. Nociceptive responses assessed by quantitative sensory testing demonstrated reduced pain sensitivity only in the WAGR subjects whose deletion boundaries included the BDNF gene. Corresponding behavioral assessments were made in heterozygous Bdnf knockout rats to examine the specific role of Bdnf. These analogous experiments revealed impairment of Aδ- and C-fiber-mediated heat nociception, determined by acute nociceptive thermal stimuli, and in aversive behaviors evoked when the rats were placed on a hot plate. Similar results were obtained for C-fiber-mediated cold responses and cold avoidance on a cold-plate device. Together, these results suggested a blunted responsiveness to aversive stimuli. Our parallel observations in humans and rats show that hemizygous deletion of the BDNF gene reduces pain sensitivity and establishes BDNF as a determinant of nociceptive sensitivity.
Source: Pain - Category: Anesthesiology Tags: Research Paper Source Type: research

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