Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Mohapatra, D. P.

First Committee Member

Benson, Christopher J.

Second Committee Member

Brennan, Timonthy J.

Third Committee Member

Hammond, Donna L.

Fourth Committee Member

Usachev, Yuriy M.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is caused by aberrant attack of the joints by native inflammatory system. This can lead to joint destruction and pain that can be debilitating. Increased angiogenesis and innervation by nociceptive afferent fibers are characteristic features of RA joints, which in addition to the elevated levels of a wide variety of inflammatory mediators, are thought to play an important role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory pain associated with RA. Interestingly, a recent report indicates that C–type natriuretic peptide (CNP) is increased in the blood serum of RA patients. Natriuretic peptides (NPs) control natriuresis and normalize changes in blood pressure. Many biological effects of NPs are mediated by guanylate cyclase (GC)–coupled NP receptors, NPR–A and NPR–B, whereas the third NP receptor, NPR–C, lacks the GC kinase domain and acts as the NP clearance receptor. In addition, NPR–C can couple to specific Gái–βã–mediated intracellular signaling cascades in numerous cell types. Recent studies suggest that NPs are also involved in the regulation of pain sensitivity, although the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown.

In Aim 1, I show that CNP acutely sensitized the excitation of mouse dorsal root ganglia (DRG) sensory neurons that is dependent on the transient receptor potential vanilloid–1 (TRPV1). CNP potentiated capsaicin– and proton–activated TRPV1 currents in cultured mouse DRG neurons and increased neuronal firing frequency, an effect that was absent in DRG neurons from TRPV1−/−mice. Further, CNP injection into mouse hind paw led to the development of thermal hyperalgesia, which was absent in TRPV1−/−mice.

In Aim 2, I dissected the signaling mechanism underlying TRPV1 sensitization by CNP. My results show that all 3 functional NPRs are expressed in mouse DRG neurons; however NPR–A/B–cGMP signaling is not involved in CNP–mediated sensitization of TRPV1. Interestingly, I observed that sensitization of TRPV1 by CNP is dependent on protein kinase C (PKC) activity. Furthermore, I found that NPR–C is co–expressed in TRPV1–expressing mouse DRG neurons and can be co–immunoprecipitated with Gαi, but not with Gαq/11 or Gαs subunits. CNP treatment induced translocation of PKCå to the plasma membrane of these neurons, which was attenuated by pertussis toxin pre–treatment. Accordingly, CNP–induced sensitization of TRPV1 was attenuated by pre–treatment of DRG neurons with the specific inhibitors of Gβã, phospholipase–Cβ (PLCβ) or PKC, but not of protein kinase A (PKA), and by mutations at two PKC phosphorylation sites, S502 and S800, in the TRPV1 protein. Furthermore, the development of thermal hyperalgesia in CNP–injected hindpaw was attenuated by administration of specific inhibitors of Gβã or PKC. Thus, my work identifies the Gβã–PLCâ–PKC–dependent potentiation of TRPV1 as a novel signaling cascade recruited by CNP in mouse DRG neurons that can lead to enhanced nociceptor excitability and thermal hypersensitivity. Such signaling cascade could presumably constitute one of the mechanisms underlying chronic inflammatory joint pain associated with RA.


Arthritis, CNP, Pain, Peripheral Sensitization, Thermal Hyperalgesia, TRPV1


xviii, 91 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 80-91).


Copyright 2013 Lipin Loo

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