Inhibition of the kinase WNK1/HSN2 ameliorates neuropathic pain by restoring GABA inhibition

Kristopher T Kahle (Lead / Corresponding author), Jean-François Schmouth, Valérie Lavastre, Alban Latremoliere, Jinwei Zhang, Nick Andrews, Takao Omura, Janet Laganière, Daniel Rochefort, Pascale Hince, Geneviève Castonguay, Rébecca Gaudet, Josiane C S Mapplebeck, Susana G Sotocinal, JingJing Duan, Catherine Ward, Arjun R Khanna, Jeffrey S Mogil, Patrick A Dion, Clifford J WoolfPerrine Inquimbert, Guy A Rouleau (Lead / Corresponding author)

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HSN2 is a nervous system predominant exon of the gene encoding the kinase WNK1 and is mutated in an autosomal recessive, inherited form of congenital pain insensitivity. The HSN2-containing splice variant is referred to as WNK1/HSN2. We created a knockout mouse specifically lacking the Hsn2 exon of Wnk1 Although these mice had normal spinal neuron and peripheral sensory neuron morphology and distribution, the mice were less susceptible to hypersensitivity to cold and mechanical stimuli after peripheral nerve injury. In contrast, thermal and mechanical nociceptive responses were similar to control mice in an inflammation-induced pain model. In the nerve injury model of neuropathic pain, WNK1/HSN2 contributed to a maladaptive decrease in the activity of the K(+)-Cl(-)cotransporter KCC2 by increasing its inhibitory phosphorylation at Thr(906)and Thr(1007), resulting in an associated loss of GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid)-mediated inhibition of spinal pain-transmitting nerves. Electrophysiological analysis showed that WNK1/HSN2 shifted the concentration of Cl(-)such that GABA signaling resulted in a less hyperpolarized state (increased neuronal activity) rather than a more hyperpolarized state (decreased neuronal activity) in mouse spinal nerves. Pharmacologically antagonizing WNK activity reduced cold allodynia and mechanical hyperalgesia, decreased KCC2 Thr(906)and Thr(1007)phosphorylation, and restored GABA-mediated inhibition (hyperpolarization) of injured spinal cord lamina II neurons. These data provide mechanistic insight into, and a compelling therapeutic target for treating, neuropathic pain after nerve injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberra32
Number of pages9
JournalScience Signaling
Issue number421
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2016


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