Activin induces tactile allodynia and increases calcitonin gene-related peptide after peripheral inflammation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Neuroscience








Activin; CGRP; Inflammation; NGF; Sensory neurons; Tactile allodynia


Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a sensory neuropeptide important in inflammatory pain that conveys pain information centrally and dilates blood vessels peripherally. Previous studies indicate that activin A increases CGRP-immunoreactive (IR) sensory neurons in vitro, and following wound, activin A protein increases in the skin and more neurons have detectable CGRP expression in the innervating dorsal root ganglion (DRG). These data suggest some adult sensory neurons respond to activin A or other target-derived factors with increased neuropeptide expression. This study was undertaken to test whether activin contributes to inflammatory pain and increased CGRP and to learn which neurons retained plasticity. After adjuvant-induced inflammation, activin mRNA, but not NGF or glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, increased in the skin. To examine which DRG neurons increased CGRP immunoreactivity, retrograde tracer-labeled cutaneous neurons were characterized after inflammation. The proportion and size of tracer-labeled DRG neurons with detectable CGRP increased after inflammation. One-third of CGRP-IR neurons that appear after inflammation also had isolectin B4 binding, suggesting that some mechanoreceptors became CGRP-IR. In contrast, the increased proportion of CGRP-IR neurons did not appear to come from RT97-IR neurons. To learn whether central projections were altered after inflammation, CGRP immunoreactivity in the protein kinase Cγ-IR lamina IIi was quantified and found to increase. Injection of activin A protein alone caused robust tactile allodynia and increased CGRP in the DRG. Together, these data support the hypothesis that inflammation and skin changes involving activin A cause some sensory neurons to increase CGRP expression and pain responses. Copyright © 2005 Society for Neuroscience.

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