Neuropilin-1 is essential for vascular endothelial growth factor A-mediated increase of sensory neuron activity and development of pain-like behaviors

Kimberly Gomez, Paz Duran, Raquel Tonello, Heather N. Allen, Lisa Boinon, Aida Calderon-Rivera, Santiago Loya-López, Tyler S. Nelson, Dongzhi Ran, Aubin Moutal, Nigel W. Bunnett, Rajesh Khanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) is a transmembrane glycoprotein that binds numerous ligands including vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA). Binding of this ligand to NRP-1 and the co-receptor, the tyrosine kinase receptor VEGFR2, elicits nociceptor sensitization resulting in pain through the enhancement of the activity of voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels. We previously reported that blocking the interaction between VEGFA and NRP-1 with the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 attenuates VEGFA-induced dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuronal excitability and alleviates neuropathic pain, pointing to the VEGFA/NRP-1 signaling as a novel therapeutic target of pain. Here, we investigated whether peripheral sensory neurons and spinal cord hyperexcitability and pain behaviors were affected by the loss of NRP-1. Nrp-1 is expressed in both peptidergic and nonpeptidergic sensory neurons. A CRIPSR/Cas9 strategy targeting the second exon of nrp-1 gene was used to knockdown NRP-1. Neuropilin-1 editing in DRG neurons reduced VEGFA-mediated increases in CaV2.2 currents and sodium currents through NaV1.7. Neuropilin-1 editing had no impact on voltage-gated potassium channels. Following in vivo editing of NRP-1, lumbar dorsal horn slices showed a decrease in the frequency of VEGFA-mediated increases in spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents. Finally, intrathecal injection of a lentivirus packaged with an NRP-1 guide RNA and Cas9 enzyme prevented spinal nerve injury-induced mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia in both male and female rats. Collectively, our findings highlight a key role of NRP-1 in modulating pain pathways in the sensory nervous system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2696-2710
Number of pages15
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • CaV2.2
  • Chronic pain
  • NaV1.7
  • Neuropilin 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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