SAGE Journals

A novel, injury-free rodent model of vulnerability for assessment of acute and preventive therapies reveals temporal contributions of CGRP-receptor activation in migraine-like pain

Posted on 2020-09-28 - 12:06

Development and characterization of a novel injury-free preclinical model of migraine-like pain allowing mechanistic assessment of both acute and preventive treatments.


A “two-hit” hyperalgesic priming strategy was used to induce vulnerability to a normally subthreshold challenge with umbellulone, a transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) activator, in uninjured female and male C57BL/6 mice. Priming (i.e. the first hit) was induced by three consecutive daily episodes of restraint stress; repeated umbellulone was also evaluated for potential priming effects. Sixteen days after the first restraint stress, mice received inhalational umbellulone (i.e. the second hit) to elicit migraine-like pain. Medications currently used for acute or preventive migraine therapy including propranolol (a beta blocker) and sumatriptan (5HT1B/D agonist), as well as olcegepant, an experimental calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonist and nor-Binaltorphimine (nor-BNI), an experimental long-acting kappa opioid receptor (KOR) antagonist, were investigated for their efficacy to block priming and prevent or reverse umbellulone-induced allodynia in primed animals. To assess migraine-like pain, cutaneous allodynia was determined by responses to periorbital or hindpaw probing with von Frey filaments.


Repeated restraint stress, but not umbellulone exposure, produced transient cutaneous allodynia that resolved within 16 d. Restraint stress produced long-lasting priming that persisted beyond 16 d, as demonstrated by reinstatement of cutaneous allodynia following inhalational umbellulone challenge. Pretreatment with propranolol or nor-BNI prior to restraint stress prevented both transient cutaneous allodynia and priming, demonstrated by a lack of umbellulone-induced cutaneous allodynia. Following establishment of restraint stress priming, olcegepant, but not propranolol or nor-BNI, prevented umbellulone-induced cutaneous allodynia. When administered 1 h after umbellulone, sumatriptan, but not olcegepant, reversed umbellulone-induced cutaneous allodynia in restraint stress-primed rats.


We have developed a novel injury-free model with translational relevance that can be used to study mechanisms relevant to migraine-like pain and to evaluate novel acute or preventive treatments. Restraint stress priming induced a state of vulnerability to a subthreshold stimulus that has been referred to as “latent sensitization”. The development of latent sensitization could be prevented by blockade of stress pathways with propranolol or with a kappa opioid receptor antagonist. Following establishment of latent sensitization, subthreshold stimulation with umbellulone reinstated cutaneous allodynia, likely from activation of meningeal TRPA1-expressing nociceptors. Accordingly, in restraint stress-primed animals, sumatriptan reversed umbellulone-induced cutaneous allodynia, supporting peripheral sites of action, while propranolol and nor-BNI were not effective. Surprisingly, olcegepant was effective in mice with latent sensitization when given prior to, but not after, umbellulone challenge, suggesting time-dependent contributions of calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor signaling in promoting migraine-like pain in this model. Activation of the calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor participates in initiating, but has a more limited role in maintaining, pain responses, supporting the efficacy of small molecule calcitonin gene-related peptide antagonists as preventive medications. Additionally, the effectiveness of sumatriptan in reversal of established pain thus suggests modulation of additional, non-calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor-mediated nociceptive mechanisms. Kappa opioid receptor antagonists may represent a novel preventive therapy for stress-related migraine.


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