MicroRNA-146a-5p attenuates visceral hypersensitivity through targeting chemokine CCL8 in the spinal cord in a mouse model of colitis.Brain Res Bull. 2018 05; 139:235-242.BR
Visceral pain, observed in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients, is a challenging medical problem and remains poorly understood because the mechanisms underlying it are unclear. Emerging evidence indicates that microRNAs (miRNAs) play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of acute and chronic pain. In this study, we aimed to explore the potential role of miR-146a-5p (the mature form of miR-146a) in a mouse model of colitis induced by intracolonic injection of trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS). We found that induction of colitis resulted in visceral hyperalgesia manifested by a decreased pain threshold to colorectal distension and upregulation of miR-146a-5p expression in the lumbosacral spinal cord. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry results showed that miR-146a-5p was colocalized with neuronal marker NeuN, but not with astrocytic marker GFAP or microglial marker IBA-1. Dual-luciferase reporter assay showed that miR-146a-5p directly targeted the 3'-untranslated region (UTR) of CCL8, which was previously identified as an important regulator of visceral pain. In cultured Neuro-2a cells, TNF-α-induced CCL8 upregulation was decreased by transfection of miR-146a-5p mimic dose-dependently. In vivo, exogenous supplementation of miR-146a-5p by intrathecal miR-146a-5p agomir significantly alleviated visceral pain and decreased CCL8 expression in colitis mice. Furthermore, inhibition of CCL8 expression by CCL8 siRNA relieved colitis-induced visceral nociception. Finally, in naïve mice intrathecal miR-146a-5p antagomir upregulated CCL8 expression and induced visceral pain hypersensitivity, which could be partially rescued by neutralization of CCL8. Taken together, the present findings indicate that miR-146a-5p may be an endogenous suppressor of visceral pain and exogenous supplementation of miR-146a-5p could exert an analgesic effect at least partly by targeting spinal CCL8 expression. Thus, miR-146a-5p may serve as a novel therapeutic target for visceral pain intervention in the context of colitis.