2020 Volume 62 Issue 1 Pages 13-17
Although xerostomia can cause persistent oral pain, the mechanisms underlying such pain are not well understood. To evaluate whether a phosphorylated p38 (pp38)-TRPV4 mechanism in trigeminal ganglion (TG) neurons has a role in mechanical hyperalgesia of dry tongue, a rat model of dry tongue was used to study the nocifensive reflex and pp38 and TRPV4 expression in TG neurons. The head-withdrawal reflex threshold for mechanical stimulation of the tongue was significantly lower in dry-tongue rats than in sham rats. The numbers of TRPV4- and pp38-immunoreactive cells in the TG were significantly higher in dry-tongue rats than in sham rats. Many TRPV4-IR cells were also pp38-immunoreactive. The number of TRPV1-IR cells was unchanged in the TG after induction of tongue dryness. Local injection of a TRPV4 blocker attenuated tongue mechanical hypersensitivity in dry-tongue rats. Intraganglionic injection of a selective p38 MAP kinase inhibitor eliminated tongue hypersensitivity in dry-tongue rats and suppressed TRPV4 expression in TG neurons. The present findings suggest that TRPV4 activation via p38 phosphorylation in TG neurons is involved in mechanical hypersensitivity associated with dry tongue. These mechanisms may have a role in pain associated with xerostomia.