M Peiris, JR Hockley, DE Reed, ESJ Smith, DC Bulmer, LA Blackshaw
Background Chronic visceral pain is a defining symptom of many gastrointestinal disorders. The KV7 family (KV7.1-KV7.5) of voltage-gated potassium channels mediates the M current that regulates excitability in peripheral sensory nociceptors and central pain pathways. Here, we use a combination of immunohistochemistry, gut-nerve electrophysiological recordings in both mouse and human tissues, and single-cell qualitative real-time polymerase chain reaction of gut-projecting sensory neurons, to investigate the contribution of peripheral KV7 channels to visceral nociception. Results Immunohistochemical staining of mouse colon revealed labelling of KV7 subtypes (KV7.3 and KV7.5) with CGRP around intrinsic enteric neurons of the myenteric plexuses and within extrinsic sensory fibres along mesenteric blood vessels. Treatment with the KV7 opener retigabine almost completely abolished visceral afferent firing evoked by the algogen bradykinin, in agreement with significant co-expression of mRNA transcripts by single-cell qualitative real-time polymerase chain reaction for KCNQ subtypes and the B2 bradykinin receptor in retrogradely labelled extrinsic sensory neurons from the colon. Retigabine also attenuated responses to mechanical stimulation of the bowel following noxious distension (0-80 mmHg) in a concentration-dependent manner, whereas the KV7 blocker XE991 potentiated such responses. In human bowel tissues, KV7.3 and KV7.5 were expressed in neuronal varicosities co-labelled with synaptophysin and CGRP, and retigabine inhibited bradykinin-induced afferent activation in afferent recordings from human colon. Conclusions We show that KV7 channels contribute to the sensitivity of visceral sensory neurons to noxious chemical and mechanical stimuli in both mouse and human gut tissues. As such, peripherally restricted KV7 openers may represent a viable therapeutic modality for the treatment of gastrointestinal pathologies.