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Keywords:

  • connexins;
  • gap junctions;
  • p38;
  • satellite glia;
  • tonabersat;
  • trigeminal

Background.— Sensitization and activation of trigeminal neurons are implicated in the underlying pathology of migraine, acute sinusitis, and allergic rhinitis. Cell bodies of trigeminal neurons that provide sensory innervation of the dura and nasal mucosa reside in the trigeminal ganglion in association with satellite glial cells where they communicate via gap junctions. Gap junctions, channels formed by connexins, modulate the excitability state of both neurons and glia under pathological conditions. Tonabersat, a compound being tested as an antimigraine drug, is thought to block gap junction activity.

Objective.— To investigate the cellular events within trigeminal ganglia that may account for the significant comorbidity of migraine and rhinosinusitis and determine the effect of tonabersat on neuron-satellite glia communication.

Methods.— Sprague Dawley rats injected with True Blue were used to localize neuronal cell bodies in the ganglion and study neuron-glia signaling via gap junctions in the trigeminal ganglion. Dye coupling studies were conducted under basal conditions and in response to tumor necrosis factor-alpha injection into the whisker pad and/or capsaicin injection into the eyebrow. Changes in connexin 26 and active p38 levels were determined by immunohistochemistry. In addition, the effect of tonabersat prior to chemical stimulation on gap junction activity and expression of connexins and active p38 was investigated.

Results.— Injection of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a cytokine implicated in the pathology of acute sinusitis and allergic rhinitis, into the V2 region was shown to lower the amount of capsaicin required to stimulate neurons located in the V1 region of the ganglion. While injection of tumor necrosis factor-alpha into the whisker pad or capsaicin injection into the eyebrow alone did not cause increased dye movement, the combination of both stimuli greatly increased neuron-satellite glia communication via gap junctions in both V1 and V2 regions. The change in gap junction activity was accompanied by increased expression of connexin 26 and active p38 levels in both neurons and satellite glia in V1 and V2 regions. Pretreatment with tonabersat inhibited gap junction communication between neurons and satellite glia and blocked the increase in connexin 26 and active p38 levels in response to injection of both tumor necrosis factor-alpha (V2) and capsaicin (V1).

Conclusions.— We propose that increased levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, as reported during acute sinusitis and allergic rhinitis, reduces the amount of capsaicin necessary to stimulate V1 neurons that leads to cellular changes in both V1 and V2 regions. The cellular events observed in this study may help to explain, in part, the significant comorbidity reported with migraine and rhinosinusitis. In addition, we have provided evidence to suggest that tonabersat can prevent increased neuron-satellite glia signaling and, thus, may be useful in the treatment of migraine, acute sinusitis, and allergic rhinitis.