The microtubule-stabilizing drug paclitaxel (PTX) is an important chemotherapeutic agent for cancer treatment and causes peripheral neuropathy as a common side effect that substantially impacts the functional status and quality of life of patients. The mechanistic role for NIMA-related kinase 2 (NEK2) in the progression of PTX-induced neuropathic pain has not been established.
Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats intraperitoneally received PTX to induce neuropathic pain. The protein expression levels in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) of animals were measured by biochemical analyses. Nociceptive behaviors were evaluated by von Frey tests and hot plate tests
PTX increased phosphorylation of the important microtubule dynamics regulator NEK2 in DRG neurons and induced profound neuropathic allodynia. PTX-activated phosphorylated NEK2 (pNEK2) increased jumonji domain–containing 3 (JMJD3) protein, a histone demethylase protein, to specifically catalyze the demethylation of the repressive histone mark H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) at the Trpv1 gene, thereby enhancing transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype-1 (TRPV1) expression in DRG neurons. Moreover, the pNEK2-dependent PTX response program is regulated by enhancing p90 ribosomal S6 kinase 2 (RSK2) phosphorylation. Conversely, intrathecal injections of kaempferol (a selective RSK2 activation antagonist), NCL 00017509 (a selective NEK2 inhibitor), NEK2-targeted siRNA, GSK-J4 (a selective JMJD3 inhibitor), or capsazepine (an antagonist of TRPV1 receptor) into PTX-treated rats reversed neuropathic allodynia and restored silencing of the Trpv1 gene, suggesting the hierarchy and interaction among phosphorylated RSK2 (pRSK2), pNEK2, JMJD3, H3K27me3, and TRPV1 in the DRG neurons in PTX-induced neuropathic pain.
pRSK2/JMJD3/H3K27me3/TRPV1 signaling in the DRG neurons plays as a key regulator for PTX therapeutic approaches.