Protein kinases as potential targets for the treatment of pathological pain.
Pathological pain or clinical pain refers to tissue injury-induced inflammatory pain and nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain and is often chronic. Pathological pain is an expression of neural plasticity that occurs both in the peripheral nervous system (e.g., primary sensory nociceptors), termed peripheral sensitization, and in the central nervous system (e.g., dorsal horn and brain neurons), termed central sensitization. Our insufficient understanding of mechanisms underlying the induction and maintenance of injury-induced neuronal plasticity hinders successful treatment for pathological pain. The human genome encodes 518 protein kinases, representing one of the largest protein families. There is growing interest in developing protein kinase inhibitors for the treatment of a number of diseases. Although protein kinases were not favored as targets for analgesics, studies in the last decade have demonstrated important roles of these kinases in regulating neuronal plasticity and pain sensitization. Multiple protein kinases have been implicated in peripheral and central sensitization following intense noxious stimuli and injuries. In particular, mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), consisting of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), are downstream to many kinases and are activated in primary sensory and dorsal horn neurons by nociceptive activity, growth factors and inflammatory mediators, contributing to the induction and maintenance of pain sensitization via posttranslational, translational, and transcriptional regulation. MAPKs are also activated in spinal glial cells (microglia and astrocytes) after injuries, leading to the synthesis of inflammatory mediators/neuroactive substances that act on nociceptive neurons, enhancing and prolonging pain sensitization. Inhibition of multiple kinases has been shown to attenuate inflammatory and neuropathic pain in different animal models. Development of specific inhibitors for protein kinases to target neurons and glial cells will shed light on the development of new therapies for debilitating chronic pain.
Ji, RR; Kawasaki, Y; Zhuang, ZY; Wen, YR; Zhang, YQ
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