Hypernegative GABAA Reversal Potential in Pyramidal Cells Contributes to Medial Prefrontal Cortex Deactivation in a Mouse Model of Neuropathic Pain

Haram R. Kim, Manzhao Long, Gabriella Sekerková, Amadeus Maes, Ann Kennedy, Marco Martina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Deactivation of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been broadly reported in both neuropathic pain models and human chronic pain patients. Several cellular mechanisms may contribute to the inhibition of mPFC activity, including enhanced GABAergic inhibition. The functional effect of GABAA(γ-aminobutyric acid type A)-receptor activation depends on the concentration of intracellular chloride in the postsynaptic neuron, which is mainly regulated by the activity of Na-K-2Cl cotransporter isoform 1 (NKCC1) and K-Cl cotransporter isoform 2 (KCC2), 2 potassium-chloride cotransporters that import and extrude chloride, respectively. Recent work has shown that the NKCC1-KCC2 ratio is affected in numerous pathological conditions, and we hypothesized that it may contribute to the alteration of mPFC function in neuropathic pain. We used quantitative in situ hybridization to assess the level of expression of NKCC1 and KCC2 in the mPFC of a mouse model of neuropathic pain (spared nerve injury), and we found that KCC2 transcript is increased in the mPFC of spared nerve injury mice while NKCC1 is not affected. Perforated patch recordings further showed that this results in the hypernegative reversal potential of the GABAA current in pyramidal neurons of the mPFC. Computational simulations suggested that this change in GABAA reversal potential is sufficient to significantly reduce the overall activity of the cortical network. Thus, our results identify a novel pathological modulation of GABAA function and a new mechanism by which mPFC function is inhibited in neuropathic pain. Our data also help explain previous findings showing that activation of mPFC interneurons has proalgesic effect in neuropathic, but not in control conditions. Perspective: Chronic pain is associated with the presence of depolarizing GABAA current in the spinal cord, suggesting that pharmacological NKCC1 antagonism has analgesic effects. However, our results show that in neuropathic pain, GABAA current is actually hyperinhibitory in the mPFC, where it contributes to the mPFC functional deactivation. This suggests caution in the use of NKCC1 antagonism to treat pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-532
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Inhibition
  • K-Cl cotransporter isoform 2
  • Na-K-2Cl cotransporter isoform 1
  • neuropathic pain
  • perforated patch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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