Neuropeptide Y targets the Y1 receptor (Y1) in the spinal dorsal horn (DH) to produce endogenous and exogenous analgesia. DH interneurons that express Y1 (Y1-INs; encoded by Npy1r) are necessary and sufficient for neuropathic hypersensitivity after peripheral nerve injury. However, as Y1-INs are heterogenous in composition in terms of morphology, neurophysiological characteristics, and gene expression, we hypothesized that a more precisely defined subpopulation mediates neuropathic hypersensitivity. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization, we found that Y1-INs segregate into 3 largely nonoverlapping subpopulations defined by the coexpression of Npy1r with gastrin-releasing peptide (Grp/Npy1r), neuropeptide FF (Npff/Npy1r), and cholecystokinin (Cck/Npy1r) in the superficial DH of mice, nonhuman primates, and humans. Next, we analyzed the functional significance of Grp/Npy1r, Npff/Npy1r, and Cck/Npy1r INs to neuropathic pain using a mouse model of peripheral nerve injury. We found that chemogenetic inhibition of Npff/Npy1r-INs did not change the behavioral signs of neuropathic pain. Further, inhibition of Y1-INs with an intrathecal Y1 agonist, [Leu31, Pro34]-NPY, reduced neuropathic hypersensitivity in mice with conditional deletion of Npy1r from CCK-INs and NPFF-INs but not from GRP-INs. We conclude that Grp/Npy1r-INs are conserved in higher order mammalian species and represent a promising and precise pharmacotherapeutic target for the treatment of neuropathic pain.


Tyler S. Nelson, Heather N. Allen, Paramita Basu, Pranav Prasoon, Eileen Nguyen, Cynthia M. Arokiaraj, Diogo F.S. Santos, Rebecca P. Seal, Sarah E. Ross, Andrew J. Todd, Bradley K. Taylor


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