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Diabetic neuropathic pain (DNP) is a debilitating condition. Current therapies are ineffective at treating DNP. We have previously demonstrated that methylglyoxal (MGO), a reactive metabolite of glycolysis that is elevated in the plasma of diabetic patients, pain hypersensitivity by engaging the integrated stress response (ISR) in mice. Induction of the ISR alters protein synthesis by inhibiting eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) and relying on eIF2A-mediated translation. We hypothesize that eIF2A regulates protein synthesis that contributes to pain hypersensitivity under conditions of ISR, especially after MGO application. We employed the recently characterized eIF2A-/- mouse to investigate how MGO treatment induces the ISR, facilitates eIF2A-mediated translation, and consequently causes pain hypersensitivity. We also subjected mice to tunicamycin (TUN), a well-known ISR inducer, and spared nerve injury (SNI). With donated human dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and spinal nerves (SpN), we aimed to translate our finding in rodents to humans. Intraplantar and intraperitoneal administrations of MGO induced pain hypersensitivity in a dose-dependent manner in male and female WT animals but not in eIF2A-/- mice. Following TUN and SNI, the eIF2A-/-¬¬ mice were protected against ISR-dependent pain (tunicamycin) but not against ISR-independent pain (SNI). MGO treatment of human DRG and SpN explants, and cultured human DRG neurons elevated p-eIF2α and eIF2A levels suggesting that MGO induces ISR not only in mice, but also in humans. Carboxyethyl lysine (CEL), a byproduct of reactive MGO and lysine residues, is increased in MGO treated cells and DRG and spinal nerve explants but not in tunicamycin treated explants, despite sharing elevated p-eIF2α and eIF2A levels. We demonstrate that eIF2A is necessary for the development of ISR-induced pain hypersensitivity. We further suggest that MGO and its byproduct, CEL, can be used as a biomarker to stratify DNP patients that would respond to ISR inhibitors like ISRIB.
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