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Open Access Research

Activation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 5 is essential for cystitis- and nerve growth factor-induced calcitonin gene-related peptide expression in sensory neurons

Sharon J Yu, Chun-mei Xia, Jarren C Kay and Li-Ya Qiao*

Author Affiliations

Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, Virginia, USA

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Molecular Pain 2012, 8:48  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-8-48

Published: 28 June 2012

Abstract

Background

Cystitis causes considerable neuronal plasticity in the primary afferent pathways. The molecular mechanism and signal transduction underlying cross talk between the inflamed urinary bladder and sensory sensitization has not been investigated.

Results

In a rat cystitis model induced by cyclophosphamide (CYP) for 48 h, the mRNA and protein levels of the excitatory neurotransmitter calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) are increased in the L6 dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in response to bladder inflammation. Cystitis-induced CGRP expression in L6 DRG is triggered by endogenous nerve growth factor (NGF) because neutralization of NGF with a specific NGF antibody reverses CGRP up-regulation during cystitis. CGRP expression in the L6 DRG neurons is also enhanced by retrograde NGF signaling when NGF is applied to the nerve terminals of the ganglion-nerve two-compartmented preparation. Characterization of the signaling pathways in cystitis- or NGF-induced CGRP expression reveals that the activation (phosphorylation) of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK)5 but not Akt is involved. In L6 DRG during cystitis, CGRP is co-localized with phospho-ERK5 but not phospho-Akt. NGF-evoked CGRP up-regulation is also blocked by inhibition of the MEK/ERK pathway with specific MEK inhibitors U0126 and PD98059, but not by inhibition of the PI3K/Akt pathway with inhibitor LY294002. Further examination shows that cystitis-induced cAMP-responsive element binding protein (CREB) activity is expressed in CGRP bladder afferent neurons and is co-localized with phospho-ERK5 but not phospho-Akt. Blockade of NGF action in vivo reduces the number of DRG neurons co-expressing CGRP and phospho-CREB, and reverses cystitis-induced increases in micturition frequency.

Conclusions

A specific pathway involving NGF-ERK5-CREB axis plays an essential role in cystitis-induced sensory activation.

Keywords:
ERK5; Akt; NGF; CGRP; DRG