Alleviating neuropathic pain hypersensitivity by inhibiting PKMzeta in the anterior cingulate cortex

Synaptic plasticity is a key mechanism for chronic pain. It occurs at different levels of the central nervous system, including spinal cord and cortex. Studies have mainly focused on signaling proteins that trigger these plastic changes, whereas few have addressed the maintenance of plastic changes related to chronic pain. We found that protein kinase M zeta (PKMζ) maintains pain-induced persistent changes in the mouse anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Peripheral nerve injury caused activation of PKMζ in the ACC, and inhibiting PKMζ by a selective inhibitor, ζ-pseudosubstrate inhibitory peptide (ZIP), erased synaptic potentiation. Microinjection of ZIP into the ACC blocked behavioral sensitization. These results suggest that PKMζ in the ACC acts to maintain neuropathic pain. PKMζ could thus be a new therapeutic target for treating chronic pain.