Glia and Orofacial Pain: Progress and Future Directions
Orofacial pain is a universal predicament, afflicting millions of individuals worldwide. Research on the molecular mechanisms of orofacial pain has predominately focused on the role of neurons underlying nociception. However, aside from neural mechanisms, non-neuronal cells, such as Schwann cells and satellite ganglion cells in the peripheral nervous system, and microglia and astrocytes in the central nervous system, are important players in both peripheral and central processing of pain in the orofacial region. This review highlights recent molecular and cellular findings of the glia involvement and glia-neuron interactions in four common orofacial pain conditions such as headache, dental pulp injury, temporomandibular joint dysfunction/inflammation, and head and neck cancer. We will discuss the remaining questions and future directions on glial involvement in these four orofacial pain conditions.
TNFÎ± promotes oral cancer growth, pain, and Schwann cell activation
Oral cancer is very painful and impairs a patient's ability to eat, talk, and drink. Mediators secreted from oral cancer can excite and sensitize sensory neurons inducing pain. Cancer mediators can also activate Schwann cells, the peripheral glia that regulates neuronal function and repair. The contribution of Schwann cells to oral cancer pain is unclear. We hypothesize that the oral cancer mediator TNFÎ± activates Schwann cells, which further promotes cancer progression and pain. We demonstrate that TNFÎ± is overexpressed in human oral cancer tissues and correlates with increased self-reported pain in patients. Antagonizing TNFÎ± reduces oral cancer proliferation, cytokine production, and nociception in mice with oral cancer. Oral cancer or TNFÎ± alone increases Schwann cell activation (measured by Schwann cell proliferation, migration, and activation markers), which can be inhibited by neutralizing TNFÎ±. Cancer- or TNFÎ±-activated Schwann cells release pro-nociceptive mediators such as TNFÎ± and nerve growth factor (NGF). Activated Schwann cells induce nociceptive behaviors in mice, which is alleviated by blocking TNFÎ±. Our study suggests that TNFÎ± promotes cancer proliferation, progression, and nociception at least partially by activating Schwann cells. Inhibiting TNFÎ± or Schwann cell activation might serve as therapeutic approaches for the treatment of oral cancer and associated pain.
Targeting the endothelin axis as a therapeutic strategy for oral cancer metastasis and pain
Metastasis reduces survival in oral cancer patients and pain is their greatest complaint. We have shown previously that oral cancer metastasis and pain are controlled by the endothelin axis, which is a pathway comprised of the endothelin A and B receptors (ETAR and ETBR). In this study we focus on individual genes of the pathway, demonstrating that the endothelin axis genes are methylated and dysregulated in cancer tissue. Based on these findings in patients, we hypothesize that ETAR and ETBR play dichotomous roles in oral carcinogenesis and pain, such that ETAR activation and silenced ETBR expression result in increased carcinogenesis and pain. We test a treatment strategy that targets the dichotomous functions of the two receptors by inhibiting ETAR with macitentan, an ETAR antagonist approved for treatment of pulmonary hypertension, and re-expressing the ETBR gene with adenovirus transduction, and determine the treatment effect on cancer invasion (i.e., metastasis), proliferation and pain in vitro and in vivo. We demonstrate that combination treatment of macitentan and ETBR gene therapy inhibits invasion, but not proliferation, in cell culture and in a mouse model of tongue cancer. Furthermore, the treatment combination produces an antinociceptive effect through inhibition of endothelin-1 mediated neuronal activation, revealing the analgesic potential of macitentan. Our treatment approach targets a pathway shown to be dysregulated in oral cancer patients, using gene therapy and repurposing an available drug to effectively treat both oral cancer metastasis and pain in a preclinical model.
Peripheral nerve injury and sensitization underlie pain associated with oral cancer perineural invasion
Cancer invading into nerves, termed perineural invasion (PNI), is associated with pain. Here we show that oral cancer patients with PNI report greater spontaneous pain and mechanical allodynia compared with patients without PNI, suggesting unique mechanisms drive PNI-induced pain. We studied the impact of PNI on peripheral nerve physiology and anatomy using a murine sciatic nerve PNI model. Mice with PNI exhibited spontaneous nociception and mechanical allodynia. PNI induced afterdischarge in A high threshold mechanoreceptors (AHTMRs), mechanical sensitization (i.e., decreased mechanical thresholds) in both A and C HTMRs, and mechanical desensitization in low threshold mechanoreceptors (LTMRs). PNI resulted in nerve damage, including axon loss, myelin damage, and axon degeneration. Electrophysiological evidence of nerve injury included decreased conduction velocity, and increased percentage of both mechanically-insensitive and electrically-unexcitable neurons. We conclude that PNI-induced pain is driven by nerve injury and peripheral sensitization in HTMRs.
ADAM17-EGFR signaling contributes to oral cancer pain
Cancer cells secrete pro-nociceptive mediators that sensitize adjacent sensory neurons and cause pain. Identification and characterization of these mediators could pinpoint novel targets for cancer pain treatment. In the present study we identified candidate genes in cancer cell lines that encode for secreted or cell surface proteins that may drive nociception. To undertake this work, we utilized an acute cancer pain mouse model, transcriptomic analysis of publicly available human tumor-derived cell line data, and a literature review. Cancer cell line supernatants were assigned a phenotype based on evoked nociceptive behavior in an acute cancer pain mouse model. We compared gene expression data from nociceptive and non-nociceptive cell lines. Our analyses revealed differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and pathways; many of the identified genes were not previously associated with cancer pain signaling. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and disintegrin metalloprotease domain 17 (ADAM17) were identified as potential targets among the DEGs. We found that the nociceptive cell lines contained significantly more ADAM17 protein in the cell culture supernatant compared to non-nociceptive cell lines. Cytoplasmic EGFR was present in almost all (>90%) tongue primary afferent neurons in mice. Monoclonal antibody against EGFR, cetuximab, inhibited cell line supernatant-induced nociceptive behavior in an acute oral cancer pain mouse model. We infer from these data that ADAM17-EGFR signaling is involved in cancer mediator-induced nociception. The differentially expressed genes and their secreted protein products may serve as candidate therapeutic targets for oral cancer pain and warrant further evaluation.
Oral cancer derived tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) activates Schwann cells to amplify pain [Meeting Abstract]
Pain is rated by oral cancer patients as the worst symptom and significantly impairs a patient's ability to eat, talk, and drink. Mediators, secreted from oral cancer microenvironment, excite primary afferent neurons, which in turn generate pain. Oral cancer cells release TNFalpha which induces acute inflammation and nociception in mice. We hypothesize that TNFalpha activates Schwann cells to amplify pain signals. First, we confirmed the involvement of TNFalpha in oral cancer pain in patients and animal models. We found that oral cancer tissues collected from patients have higher TNFalpha concentration compared to anatomically matched normal tissues. Differences in TNFalpha concentration between the tumor and anatomically matched normal tissues correlate positively with total pain scores. In a Nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4NQO) mouse oral cancer model we demonstrated reduced mechanical hypersensitivity (P<0.05, N=8) with the dolognawmeter gnawing assay when TNFalpha was neutralized with C-87. Using a non-contact co-culture model, we found that HSC-3 cells induced a more activated human primary Schwann cells phenotype with increased proliferation (P<0.05) and migration (P<0.05); introduction of C-87 in the co-culture reduced Schwann cell proliferation (P<0.05) and migration (P<0.05) induced by HSC-3 cells. After removal of the co-cultured cancer cells, cancer-activated Schwann cells secrete greater amounts of TNFalpha and nerve growth factor (NGF), another known nociceptive mediator in the oral cancer microenvironment, compared to Schwann cells initially co-cultured with DOK (P<0.05) or naive Schwann cells (P<0.05). To determine whether activated Schwann cells mediate oral cancer pain, we cultured Schwann cells in hypoxic conditions - a known cancer stimulus that induces robust Schwann cell activation. Schwann cell supernatant was then collected and injected into the mouse cheek. Supernatant from hypoxia-activated Schwann cells induced greater facial allodynia (measured with von Frey filaments) in mice (P<0.05, N=7), compared to supernatant from Schwann cells cultured in normoxic conditions (N=5). C-87 significantly reduced facial allodynia caused by hypoxiaactivated Schwann cells (P<0.05, N=5). We infer from our results that TNFalpha plays a role in the activation of Schwann cells and that cancer-activated Schwann cells are a source of nociceptive mediators in the cancer microenvironment. Inhibition of Schwann cell activation might be clinically useful for alleviating oral cancer pain
Cullin5 deficiency promotes small-cell lung cancer metastasis by stabilizing integrin Î²1
Metastasis is the dominant cause of patient death in small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), and a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying SCLC metastasis may potentially improve clinical treatment. Through genome-scale screening for key regulators of mouse Rb1-/- Trp53-/- SCLC metastasis using the pooled CRISPR/Cas9 library, we identified Cullin5 (CUL5) and suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3), two components of the Cullin-RING E3 ubiquitin ligase complex, as top candidates. Mechanistically, the deficiency of CUL5 or SOCS3 disrupted the functional formation of the E3 ligase complex and prevented the degradation of integrin Î²1, which stabilized integrin Î²1 and activated downstream focal adhesion kinase/SRC (FAK/SRC) signaling and eventually drove SCLC metastasis. Low expression levels of CUL5 and SOCS3 were significantly associated with high integrin Î²1 levels and poor prognosis in a large cohort of 128 clinical patients with SCLC. Moreover, the CUL5-deficient SCLCs were vulnerable to the treatment of the FDA-approved SRC inhibitor dasatinib. Collectively, this work identifies the essential role of CUL5- and SOCS3-mediated integrin Î²1 turnover in controlling SCLC metastasis, which might have therapeutic implications.
Reciprocal interactions between cancer and Schwann cells contribute to oral cancer progression and pain
Pain associated with oral squamous cell carcinoma (oral SCC) decreases quality of life and survival. The interaction between cancer and the peripheral nerves is known to initiate and amplify pain and contribute to carcinogenesis. Schwann cells envelop peripheral nerves and are activated in response to neuronal damage. The contributions of Schwann cells to oral SCC progression and pain are unknown. Using a non-contact co-culture model, we demonstrate that Schwann cells (RSC-96) and oral SCC cells (HSC-3) reciprocally interact to promote proliferation, migration, and invasion. Schwann cell-oral SCC interaction leads to increased production of adenosine, which stimulates cell proliferation and migration of both cell types. The adenosine receptor A2B (ADORA2B) is expressed on RSC-96 cells. We show that supernatant from the RSC-96 cells co-cultured with HSC-3 cells induces increased mechanical hypersensitivity in mice compared to supernatant from control RSC-96 cells. Treatment with the ADORA2B antagonist PSB603 significantly inhibits co-culture interactions - proliferation and migration, and co-culture supernatant induced mechanical hypersensitivity. RSC-96 cells co-cultured with HSC-3 cells secrete increased amounts of the pronociceptive mediator, interleukin-6 (IL-6), which can be reduced by adding PSB603 into the co-culture. Our data support a reciprocal interaction between oral SCC and Schwann cells mediated by adenosine with potential to promote oral SCC progression and pain via increased secretion of IL-6.
Anti-cancer and analgesic effects of resolvin D2 in oral squamous cell carcinoma
Oral cancer is often painful and lethal. Oral cancer progression and pain may result from shared pathways that involve unresolved inflammation and elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Resolvin D-series (RvDs) are endogenous lipid mediators derived from omega-3 fatty acids that exhibit pro-resolution and anti-inflammatory actions. These mediators have recently emerged as a novel class of therapeutics for diseases that involve inflammation; the specific roles of RvDs in oral cancer and associated pain are not defined. The present study investigated the potential of RvDs (RvD1 and RvD2) to treat oral cancer and alleviate oral cancer pain. We found down-regulated mRNA levels of GPR18 and GPR32 (which code for receptors RvD1 and RvD2) in oral cancer cells. Both RvD1 and RvD2 inhibited oral cancer proliferation inÂ vitro. Using two validated mouse oral squamous cell carcinoma xenograft models, we found that RvD2, the more potent anti-inflammatory lipid mediator, significantly reduced tumor size. The mechanism of this action might involve suppression of IL-6, C-X-C motif chemokine 10 (CXCL10), and reduction of tumor necrosis. RvD2 generated short-lasting analgesia in xenograft cancer models, which coincided with decreased neutrophil infiltration and myeloperoxidase activity. Using a cancer supernatant model, we demonstrated that RvD2 reduced cancer-derived cytokines/chemokines (TNF-Î±, IL-6, CXCL10, and MCP-1), cancer mediator-induced CD11b+Ly6G- myeloid cells, and nociception. We infer from our results that manipulation of the endogenous pro-resolution pathway might provide a novel approach to improve oral cancer and cancer pain treatment.
Tumor necrosis factor alpha secreted from oral squamous cell carcinoma contributes to cancer pain and associated inflammation
Oral cancer patients report severe pain during function. Inflammation plays a role in the oral cancer microenvironment; however, the role of immune cells and associated secretion of inflammatory mediators in oral cancer pain has not been well defined. In this study, we utilized two oral cancer mouse models: a cell line supernatant injection model and the 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide (4NQO) chemical carcinogenesis model. We used the two models to study changes in immune cell infiltrate and orofacial nociception associated with oral squamous cell carcinoma (oSCC). Oral cancer cell line supernatant inoculation and 4NQO-induced oSCC resulted in functional allodynia and neuronal sensitization of trigeminal tongue afferent neurons. While the infiltration of immune cells is a prominent component of both oral cancer models, our use of immune-deficient mice demonstrated that oral cancer-induced nociception was not dependent on the inflammatory component. Furthermore, the inflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa), was identified in high concentration in oral cancer cell line supernatant and in the tongue tissue of 4NQO-treated mice with oSCC. Inhibition of TNFa signaling abolished oral cancer cell line supernatant-evoked functional allodynia and disrupted T cell infiltration. With these data, we identified TNFa as a prominent mediator in oral cancer-induced nociception and inflammation highlighting the need for further investigation in neural-immune communication in cancer pain.