Transcriptional Profiling of Somatostatin Interneurons in the Spinal Dorsal Horn


The spinal dorsal horn (SDH) is comprised of distinct neuronal populations that process different somatosensory modalities. Somatostatin (SST)-expressing interneurons in the SDH have been implicated specifically in mediating mechanical pain. Identifying the transcriptomic profile of SST neurons could elucidate the unique genetic features of this population and enable selective analgesic targeting. To that end, we combined the Isolation of Nuclei Tagged in Specific Cell Types (INTACT) method and Fluorescence Activated Nuclei Sorting (FANS) to capture tagged SST nuclei in the SDH of adult male mice. Using RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq), we uncovered more than 13,000 genes. Differential gene expression analysis revealed more than 900 genes with at least 2-fold enrichment. In addition to many known dorsal horn genes, we identified and validated several novel transcripts from pharmacologically tractable functional classes: Carbonic Anhydrase 12 (Car12), Phosphodiesterase 11 A (Pde11a), and Protease-Activated Receptor 3 (F2rl2). In situ hybridization of these novel genes showed differential expression patterns in the SDH, demonstrating the presence of transcriptionally distinct subpopulations within the SST population. Overall, our findings provide new insights into the gene repertoire of SST dorsal horn neurons and reveal several novel targets for pharmacological modulation of this pain-mediating population and treatment of pathological pain.

Scientific Reports