Profound analgesia is associated with a truncated peptide resulting from tissue specific alternative splicing of DRG CA8-204 regulated by an exon-level <i>cis</i>-eQTL

by Udita Upadhyay, Gerald Z. Zhuang, Luda Diatchenko, Marc Parisien, Yuan Kang, Konstantinos D. Sarantopoulos, Eden R. Martin, Shad B. Smith, William Maixner, Roy C. Levitt

Carbonic anhydrase-8 (CA8) is an intracellular protein that functions as an allosteric inhibitor of inositol trisphosphate receptor-1 (ITPR1) critical to intracellular Ca++ release, synaptic functions and neuronal excitability. We showed previously that murine nociception and analgesic responses are regulated by the expression of this gene in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) associated with a cis-eQTL. In this report, we identify an exon-level cis-eQTL (rs6471859) that regulates human DRG CA8 alternative splicing, producing a truncated 1,697bp transcript (e.g., CA8-204). Our functional genomic studies show the “G” allele at rs6471859 produces a cryptic 3’UTR splice site regulating expression of CA8-204. We developed constructs to study the expression and function of the naturally occurring CA8-204G transcript (G allele at rs6471859), CA8-204C (C allele at rs6471859 reversion mutation) and CA8-201 (full length transcript). CA8-204G transcript expression occurred predominantly in non-neuronal cells (HEK293), while CA8-204C expression was restricted to neuronal derived cells (NBL) in vitro. CA8-204G produced a stable truncated transcript in HEK293 cells that was barely detectable in NBL cells. We also show CA8-204 produces a stable peptide that inhibits pITPR1 and Ca++ release in HEK293 cells. These results imply homozygous G/G individuals at rs6471859, which are common in the general population, produce exclusively CA8-204G that is barely detectable in neuronal cells. CA8 null mutations that greatly impact neuronal functions are associated with severe forms of spinal cerebellar ataxia, and our data suggest G/G homozygotes should display a similar phenotype. To address this question, we show in vivo using AAV8-FLAG-CA8-204G and AAV8-V5-CA8-201 gene transfer delivered via intra-neural sciatic nerve injection (SN), that these viral constructs are able to transduce DRG cells and produce similar analgesic and anti-hyperalgesic responses to inflammatory pain. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) examinations of DRG tissues further show CA8-204G peptide is expressed in advillin expressing neuronal cells, but to a lesser extent compared to glial cells. These findings explain why G/G homozygotes that exclusively produce this truncated functional peptide in DRG evade a severe phenotype. These genomic studies significantly advance the literature regarding structure-function studies on CA8-ITPR1 critical to calcium signaling pathways, synaptic functioning, neuronal excitability and analgesic responses.

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