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Visceral hypersensitivity (VH) is commonly cited as a major driver of chronic abdominal pain in “functional” gastrointestinal disorders (e.g., irritable bowel syndrome) where persistent and/or recurrent abdominal pain is the primary unifying symptom regardless of any alterations in bowel habits. The complexity of VH is in part influenced by genetic factors and individual differences in gut microbiome composition, yet specific mechanisms that generate VH remain incompletely understood. Correspondingly, current treatments to primarily focus on symptom management rather than targeting physiological mechanisms responsible for generating VH. We have begun to examine the role of genetic susceptibility and microbiome response dynamics in VH development using a preclinical model of intracolonic zymosan (ZYM) administration in which there are strain differences to VH susceptibility. Preliminary data reveals differential susceptibility between ZYM-induced VH in two closely related C57BL/6 sub strains, one from Taconic Biosciences (C57BL/6NTac) and the other from Jackson Laboratory (C57BL/6J). We have identified a VH candidate gene that encodes the arginine-vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A) protein. We have further observed dynamic strain differences in the location and composition of the gut microbiome in response to ZYM corresponding to VH susceptibility. Ongoing studies are focused on teasing apart the potential bidirectional relationship(s) between genetic susceptibility and host-microbiome interactions in the etiology of VH. Identifying underlying mechanisms that drive VH would provide novel targets for pharmacological intervention and decrease reliance on opioids, which are prescribed at a significantly higher rate to patients who report abdominal pain with no accompanying structural disease. Grant support from R21 NS104789/NS/NINDS (KMB), R03 NS096454/NS/NINDS (KMB), Rita Allen Foundation Award in Pain (KMB), P20GM103418 (EEY and KMB), and a K-INBRE recruitment startup package.
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