Date: 17 Apr 2013

Melanocortin-4 receptor expression in the rostral ventromedial medulla involved in modulation of nociception in transgenic mice

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The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) is a prominent component of the descending modulatory system involved in the control of spinal nociceptive transmission. In the current study, we investigated melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) expression in the RVM, where the neurons involved in modulation of nociception reside. Using a line of mice expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of the MC4R promoter, we found a large number of GFP-positive neurons in the RVM [nucleus raphe magnus (NRM) and nucleus gigantocellularis pars α (NGCα)]. Fluorescence immunohistochemistry revealed that approximately 10% of MC4R-GFP-positive neurons coexpressed tyrosine hydroxylase, indicating that they were catecholaminergic, whereas 50%–75% of those coexpressed tryptophan hydroxylase, indicating that they were serotonergic. Our findings support the hypothesis that MC4R signaling in RVM may modulate the activity of serotonergic sympathetic outflow sensitive to nociceptive signals, and that MC4R signaling in RVM may contribute to the descending modulation of nociceptive transmission.

This project was supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81071307, No. 81271766, and No. 81673964) and Special Fund of Fundamental Scientific Research Business Expense for Higher School of Central Government (No. 2012TS060).