Several studies have shown that motor cortex stimulation provided pain relief by motor cortex plasticity and activating descending inhibitory pain control systems. Recent evidence indicated that the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) in the periaqueductal gray played an important role in neuropathic pain. This study was designed to assess whether MC4R signaling existed in motor cortex- periaqueductal gray- spinal cord neuronal circuitry modulated the activity of sympathetic pathway by a virally mediated transsynaptic tracing study. Pseudorabies virus (PRV)-614 was injected into the left gastrocnemius muscle in adult male MC4R-green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic mice (n = 15). After a survival time of 4-6 days, the mice (n = 5) were randomly assigned to humanely sacrifice, and spinal cords and brains were removed and sectioned, and processed for PRV-614 visualization. Neurons involved in the efferent control of the left gastrocnemius muscle were identified following visualization of PRV-614 retrograde tracing. The neurochemical phenotype of MC4R-GFP-positive neurons was identified using fluorescence immunocytochemical labeling. PRV-614/MC4R-GFP dual labeled neurons were detected in spinal IML, periaqueductal gray and motor cortex. Our findings support the hypothesis that MC4R signaling in motor cortex-periaqueductal gray-spinal cord neural pathway may participate in the modulation of the melanocortin-sympathetic signaling and contribute to the descending modulation of nociceptive transmission, suggesting that MC4R signaling in motor cortex- periaqueductal gray-spinal cord neural pathway may modulate the activity of sympathetic outflow sensitive to nociceptive signals. © 2014 Ye et al.
Ye, D. W. I., Liu, C., Liu, T. T., Tian, X. B., & Xiang, H. B. (2014). Motor cortex-periaqueductal gray-spinal cord neuronal circuitry may involve in modulation of nociception: A virally mediated transsynaptic tracing study in spinally transected transgenic mouse model. PLoS ONE, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0089486