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Keywords:

  • neurotrophins;
  • preprotachykinin-A;
  • sensitisation;
  • spinal cord;
  • substance P

Abstract

To study regulation of the preprotachykinin-A gene promoter, we utilised a biolistic gene transfer protocol to deliver a DNA construct that incorporates a portion of the preprotachykinin-A gene promoter and an enhanced green fluorescent protein reporter gene into neonatal rat spinal cord organotypic slices. The ability of the neurokinin-1 receptor agonist [Sar9,Met(O2)11]-substance P, nerve growth factor and brain derived neurotrophic factor to modulate positively preprotachykinin-A gene promoter construct activity, as indicated by de novo enhanced green fluorescent protein expression, was determined. Treatment of organotypic slices with [Sar9, Met(O2)11]-substance P (10 μm, P < 0.05), nerve growth factor (200 ng/mL, P < 0.001) or brain derived neurotrophic factor (200 ng/mL, P < 0.02) significantly increased the proportion of cytomegaloviral promoter-DsRed transfected cells (used to visualise total transfected cells) that co-expressed enhanced green fluorescent protein. The distribution of enhanced green fluorescent protein/DsRed-positive neurones across spinal laminae was broadly in line with the known distribution of spinal Trk and neurokinin-1 receptors. These data suggest a modulated activity of the preprotachykinin-A gene promoter in spinal neurones in vitro by substance P and/or neurotrophins. The functional consequences of such transcriptional changes within central peptidergic circuitry and their relevance to chronic pain are considered.