Sensitization of purinergic P2X receptors is one of the mechanisms responsible for exaggerated pain responses to inflammatory injuries. Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), produced by inflamed tissues, is known to contribute to abnormal pain states. In a previous study, we showed that PGE2 increases fast inactivating ATP currents that are mediated by homomeric P2X3 receptors in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons isolated from normal rats. Protein kinase A (PKA) is the signalling pathway used by PGE2. Little is known about the action of PGE2 on ATP currents after inflammation, although the information is crucial for understanding the mechanisms underlying inflammation-induced sensitization of P2X receptors. We therefore studied the effects of PGE2 on P2X3 receptor-mediated ATP currents in DRG neurons dissociated from complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA)-induced inflamed rats. We found that PGE2 produces a large increase in ATP currents. PKCε, in addition to PKA, becomes involved in the modulatory action of PGE2. Thus, PGE2 signalling switches from a solely PKA-dependent pathway under normal conditions to both PKA- and PKC-dependent pathways after inflammation. Studying the mechanisms underlying the switch, we demonstrated that cAMP-responsive guanine nucleotide exchange factor 1 (Epac1) is up-regulated after inflammation. The Epac agonist CPT-OMe mimics the potentiating effect of PGE2 and occludes the PKC-mediated PGE2 action on ATP currents. These results suggest that Epac plays a critical role in P2X3 sensitization by activation of de novo PKC-dependent signalling of PGE2 after inflammation and would be a useful therapeutic target for pain therapies.
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