The gene transfer-mediated expression of inhibitory ion channels in nociceptive neurons holds promise for treating intractable pain. Chemogenetics, which involves expressing constructs activated by biologically inert molecules, is of particular interest as it permits tunable neuromodulation. However, current chloride-permeable chemogenetic constructs are problematic as they mediate a tonic chloride influx which over time would deplete the chloride electrochemical gradient and reduce inhibitory efficacy. Inflammatory pain sensitization can be caused by prostaglandin E2-mediated inhibition of glycinergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents in spinal nociceptive neurons. We developed a highly conducting (100 pS) inhibitory chemogenetic construct based on a human glycine receptor (α1Y279F,A288G) with high ivermectin sensitivity. When virally infected into spinal neurons, 10 nM ivermectin increased the magnitude and frequency of glycinergic postsynaptic currents without activating a tonic chloride flux. The construct should thus produce analgesia. Its human origin and the well-established biocompatibility of its ligand suggest it may be suited to human use.
Islam, M., Xu, L., Zhang, Y., Sah, P., & Lynch, J. W. (2017). A Chemogenetic Receptor That Enhances the Magnitude and Frequency of Glycinergic Inhibitory Postsynaptic Currents without Inducing a Tonic Chloride Flux. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 8(3), 460-467. https://doi.org/10.1021/acschemneuro.6b00382