Han-Rong Weng

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, United States

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Publications (12)47.43 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Paclitaxel, a powerful anti-neoplastic drug, often causes pathological pain, which significantly reduces the quality of life in patients. Paclitaxel-induced pain includes pain that occurs immediately after paclitaxel treatment (paclitaxel-associated acute pain syndrome, P-APS) and pain that persists for weeks to years after cessation of paclitaxel treatment (paclitaxel induced chronic neuropathic pain). Mechanisms underlying P-APS remain unknown. In this study, we found that paclitaxel causes acute pain in rodents in a dose-dependent manner. The paclitaxel-induced acute pain occurs within 2 hrs after a single intravenous injection of paclitaxel. This is accompanied by low levels of paclitaxel penetrating into the cerebral spinal fluid and spinal dorsal horn. We demonstrated that an intrathecal injection of paclitaxel induces mechanical allodynia in a dose-dependent manner. Paclitaxel causes activation of toll like receptor 4 (TLR4) in the spinal dorsal horn and dorsal root ganglions. Through activating TLR4, paclitaxel increases glutamatergic synaptic activities and reduces glial glutamate transporter activities in the dorsal horn. Activations of TLR4 are necessary in the genesis of paclitaxel-induced acute pain. The cellular and molecular signaling pathways revealed in this study could provide rationales for the development of analgesics and management strategies for P-APS in patients.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Molecular Pain
  • Ruchi Yadav · Xisheng Yan · Dylan W Maixner · Mei Gao · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Paclitaxel is a chemotherapeutic agent widely used for treating carcinomas. Patients receiving paclitaxel often develop neuropathic pain and have a reduced quality of life which hinders the use of this life-saving drug. In this study, we determined the role of GABA transporters in the genesis of paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain using behavioral tests, electrophysiology, and biochemical techniques. We found that tonic GABA receptor activities in the spinal dorsal horn were reduced in rats with neuropathic pain induced by paclitaxel. In normal controls, tonic GABA receptor activities were mainly controlled by the GABA transporter GAT-1 but not GAT-3. In the spinal dorsal horn, GAT-1 was expressed at presynaptic terminals and astrocytes while GAT-3 was only expressed in astrocytes. In rats with paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain, the protein expression of GAT-1 was increased while GAT-3 was decreased. This was concurrently associated with an increase of global GABA uptake. The paclitaxel-induced attenuation of GABAergic tonic inhibition was ameliorated by blocking GAT-1 but not GAT-3 transporters. Paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain was significantly attenuated by the intrathecal injection of a GAT-1 inhibitor. These findings suggest that targeting GAT-1 transporters for reversing disinhibition in the spinal dorsal horn may be a useful approach for treating paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of Neurochemistry
  • Dylan W Maixner · Xisheng Yan · Mei Gao · Ruchi Yadav · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroinflammation and dysfunctional glial glutamate transporters (GTs) in the spinal dorsal horn are implicated in the genesis of neuropathic pain. The authors determined whether adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in the spinal dorsal horn regulates these processes in rodents with neuropathic pain. Hind paw withdrawal responses to radiant heat and mechanical stimuli were used to assess nociceptive behaviors. Spinal markers related to neuroinflammation and glial GTs were determined by Western blotting. AMPK activities were manipulated pharmacologically and genetically. Regulation of glial GTs was determined by measuring protein expression and activities of glial GTs. AMPK activities were reduced in the spinal dorsal horn of rats (n = 5) with thermal hyperalgesia induced by nerve injury, which were accompanied with the activation of astrocytes, increased production of interleukin-1β and activities of glycogen synthase kinase 3β, and suppressed protein expression of glial glutamate transporter-1. Thermal hyperalgesia was reversed by spinal activation of AMPK in neuropathic rats (n = 10) and induced by inhibiting spinal AMPK in naive rats (n = 7 to 8). Spinal AMPKα knockdown (n = 6) and AMPKα1 conditional knockout (n = 6) induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia. These genetic alterations mimicked the changes of molecular markers induced by nerve injury. Pharmacological activation of AMPK enhanced glial GT activity in mice with neuropathic pain (n = 8) and attenuated glial glutamate transporter-1 internalization induced by interleukin-1β (n = 4). These findings suggest that enhancing spinal AMPK activities could be an effective approach for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Anesthesiology
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    Xisheng Yan · Enshe Jiang · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Toll like receptor 4 (TLR4) is an innate immune pattern recognition receptor, expressed predominantly on microglia in the CNS. Activation of spinal TLR4 plays a critical role in the genesis of pathological pain induced by nerve injury, bone cancer, and tissue inflammation. Currently, it remains unknown how synaptic activities in the spinal dorsal horn are regulated by TLR4 receptors. Through recording GABAergic currents in neurons and glial glutamate transporter currents in astrocytes in rodent spinal slices, we determined whether and how TLR4 modulates GABAergic synaptic activities in the superficial spinal dorsal horn. We found that activation of TLR4 by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) reduces GABAergic synaptic activities through both presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms. Specifically, LPS causes the release of IL-1ß from microglia. IL-1ß in turn suppresses GABA receptor activities at the postsynaptic site through activating protein kinase C (PKC) in neurons. GABA synthesis at the presynaptic site is reduced upon activation of TLR4. Glial glutamate transporter activities are suppressed by IL-1ß and PKC activation induced by LPS. The suppression of glial glutamate transporter activities leads to a deficiency of glutamine supply, which results in an attenuation of the glutamate-glutamine cycle-dependent GABA synthesis. These findings shed light on understanding synaptic plasticity induced by activation of TLR4 under neuroinflammation and identify GABA receptors, glial glutamate transporters, IL-1ß and PKC as therapeutic targets to abrogate abnormal neuronal activities following activation of TLR4 in pathological pain conditions.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Journal of Neuroinflammation
  • D. Maixner · X. Yan · M. Gao · R. Yadav · H. Weng

    No preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Journal of Pain
  • Han-Rong Weng · Mei Gao · Dylan W Maixner
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    ABSTRACT: Dysfunctional glial glutamate transporters and over production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (including interleukin-1β, IL-1β) are two prominent mechanisms by which glial cells enhance neuronal activities in the spinal dorsal horn in neuropathic pain conditions. Endogenous molecules regulating production of IL-1β and glial glutamate functions remain poorly understood. In this study, we revealed a dynamic alteration of GSK3β activities and its role in regulating glial glutamate transporter 1 (GLT-1) protein expression in the spinal dorsal horn and nociceptive behaviors following the nerve injury. Specifically, GSK3β was expressed in both neurons and astrocytes in the spinal dorsal horn. GSK3β activities were suppressed on day 3 but increased on day 10 following the nerve injury. In parallel, protein expression of GLT-1 in the spinal dorsal horn was enhanced on day 3 but reduced on day 10. In contrast to these time-dependent changes, the activation of astrocytes and over-production of IL-1β were found on both day 3 and day 10. Meanwhile, thermal hyperalgesia was observed from day 2 through day 10 and mechanical allodynia from day 4 through day 10. Pre-emptive pharmacological inhibition of GSK3β activities significantly ameliorated thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia at the late stage but did not have effects at the early stage. These were accompanied with the suppression of GSK3β activities, prevention of decreased GLT-1 protein expression, inhibition of astrocytic activation, and reduction of IL-1β in the spinal dorsal horn on day 10. These data indicate that the increased GSK3β activity in the spinal dorsal horn is attributable to the downregulation of GLT-1 protein expression in neuropathic rats at the late stage. Further, we also demonstrated that the nerve-injury-induced thermal hyperalgesia on day 10 was transiently suppressed by pharmacological inhibition of GSK3β. Our study suggests that GSK3β may be a potential target for the development of analgesics for chronic neuropathic pain.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Experimental Neurology
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    ABSTRACT: Paclitaxel, an antitumor agent for the treatment of several types of cancers, has recently been reported to cause impaired cognitive function and neuropathic pain in humans. To assess the effects of paclitaxel on the central nervous system, a sensitive and accurate method is required to quantify paclitaxel concentrations in plasma and brain tissue obtained from rodents receiving paclitaxel. The biological samples were prepared by liquid-liquid extraction and separated by a 3.5 min reversed-phase liquid chromatography (RPLC) method using a BDS Hypersil C8 column under isocratic conditions. Paclitaxel was quantified using multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) with a triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometer working in the positive electrospray ionization (ESI+) mode. A stable isotope labeled analogue of paclitaxel was used as the internal standard (IS). The method was validated to be precise and accurate within the dynamic range of 0.5-100 ng/mL based on 100 μL plasma and 1.5-300 ng/g based on 33 mg of brain tissue in homogenate. This method was applied to samples from 2 mg/kg intravenously dosed rats. The plasma concentrations were observed to be 26.62 ± 8.93 ng/mL and brain concentrations 11.08 ± 4.18 ng/g when measured 4 h post-dose. This rapid LC/MS/MS method was validated to be sensitive, specific, precise and accurate for the quantification of paclitaxel in rat plasma and brain tissue homogenate. Application of the method to study samples provided sufficient proof of blood-brain barrier penetration of paclitaxel, allowing further investigation of its influence on the central nervous system. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
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    Mei Gao · Xisheng Yan · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Paclitaxel (taxol) is a first-line chemotherapy-drug used to treat many types of cancers. Neuropathic pain and sensory dysfunction are the major toxicities, which are dose-limiting and significantly reduce the quality of life in patients. Two known critical spinal mechanisms underlying taxol-induced neuropathic pain are an increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-1β(IL-1β) and suppressed glial glutamate transporter activities. In this study, we uncovered that increased activation of glycogen synthase kinase 3beta (GSK3β in the spinal dorsal horn was concurrently associated with increased protein expressions of GFAP, IL-1β and a decreased protein expression of glial glutamate transporter 1 (GLT-1), as well as the development and maintenance of taxol-induced neuropathic pain. The enhanced GSK3β activities were supported by the concurrently decreased AKT and mTOR activities. The changes of all these biomarkers were basically prevented when animals received pre-emptive lithium (a GSK3βinhibitor) treatment, which also prevented the development of taxol-induced neuropathic pain. Further, chronic lithium treatment, which began on day 11 after the first taxol injection, reversed the existing mechanical and thermal allodynia induced by taxol. The taxol-induced increased GSK3β activities and decreased AKT and mTOR activities in the spinal dorsal horn were also reversed by lithium. Meanwhile, protein expressions of GLT-1, GFAP and IL-1β in the spinal dorsal horn were improved. Hence, suppression of spinal GSK3β activities is a key mechanism used by lithium to reduce taxol-induced neuropathic pain, and targeting spinal GSK3β is an effective approach to ameliorate GLT-1 expression and suppress activation of astrocytes and IL-1β over-production in the spinal dorsal horn.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · Neuroscience
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    Xisheng Yan · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Excessive activation of glutamate receptors and over production of pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) in the spinal dorsal horn are key mechanisms underlying the development and maintenance of neuropathic pain. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms by which endogenous IL-1beta alters glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the spinal dorsal horn in rats with neuropathic pain induced by ligation of the L5 spinal nerve. We demonstrated that endogenous IL-1beta in neuropathic rats enhances glutamate release from the primary afferent terminals and non-NMDA glutamate receptor activities in postsynaptic neurons in the spinal dorsal horn. Myeloid differentiation primary response protein 88 (MyD88) is a mediator used by IL-1beta to enhance non-NMDA glutamate receptor activities in postsynaptic neurons in the spinal dorsal horn. Presynaptic NMDA receptors are effector receptors used by the endogenous IL-1beta to enhance glutamate release from the primary afferents in neuropathic rats. This is further supported by the fact that NMDA currents recorded from small neurons in the dorsal root ganglion of normal rats are potentiated by exogenous IL-1beta. Further, we provided evidence that functional coupling between IL-1beta receptors and presynaptic NMDA receptors at the primary afferent terminals is mediated by the neutral sphingomyelinase/ceramide signaling pathway. Hence, functional coupling between IL-1beta receptors and presynaptic NMDA receptors at the primary afferent terminals is a crucial mechanism leading to enhanced glutamate release and activation of non-NMDA receptors in the spinal dorsal horn neurons in neuropathic pain conditions. Interruption of such functional coupling could be an effective approach for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
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    Xisheng Yan · Enshe Yan · Mei Gao · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Activation of N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is a crucial mechanism underlying the development and maintenance of pain. Traditionally, the role of NMDA receptors in the pathogenesis of pain is ascribed to their activation and signaling cascades in postsynaptic neurons. In this study, we determined if presynaptic NMDA receptors in the primary afferent central terminals play a role in synaptic plasticity of the spinal first sensory synapse in a rat model of neuropathic pain induced by spinal nerve ligation. Excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) were recorded from superficial dorsal horn neurons of spinal slices taken from young adult rats. We showed that increased glutamate release from the primary afferents contributed to the enhanced amplitudes of EPSCs evoked by input from the primary afferents in neuropathic rats. Endogenous activation of presynaptic NMDA receptors increased glutamate release from the primary afferents in neuropathic rats. Presynaptic NMDA receptors in neuropathic rats were mainly composed of NR2B receptors. The action of presynaptic NMDA receptors in neuropathic rats was enhanced by exogenous D-serine and/or NMDA and dependent on activation of protein kinase C. In contrast, glutamate release from the primary afferents in sham-operated rats was not regulated by presynaptic NMDA receptors. We demonstrated that the lack of NMDA receptor-mediated regulation of glutamate release in sham-operated rats was not attributable to low extracellular levels of the NMDA receptor agonist and/or coagonist (D-serine), but rather was due to the insufficient function and/or number of presynaptic NMDA receptors. This was supported by an increase of NR2B receptor protein expression in both the dorsal root ganglion and spinal dorsal horn ipsilateral to the injury site in neuropathic rats. Hence, suppression of the presynaptic NMDA receptor activity in the primary sensory afferents is an effective approach to attenuate the enhanced glutamatergic response in the spinal first sensory synapse induced by peripheral nerve injury, and presynaptic NMDA receptors might be a novel target for the development of analgesics.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2013 · The Journal of Physiology
  • Dylan Warren Maixner · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroinflammation is a crucial mechanism related to many neurological diseases. Extensive studies in recent years have indicated that dysregulation of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 Beta (GSK3β) contributes to the development and progression of these disorders through regulating the neuroinflammation processes. Inhibitors of GSK3β have been shown to be beneficial in many neuroinflammatory disease models including Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and AIDS dem entia complex. Glial activation and elevated pro-inflammation cytokines (signs of neuroinflammation) in the spinal cord have been widely recognized as a pivotal mechanism underlying the development and maintenance of many types of pathological pain. The role of GSK3β in the pathogenesis of pain has recently emerged. In this review, we will first review the GSK3β structure, regulation, and mechanisms by which GSK3βregulates inflammation. We will then describe neuroinflammationin general and in specific types of neurological diseases and the potential beneficial effects induced by inhibiting GSK3β. Finally, we will provide new evidence linking aberrant levels of GSK3β in the development of pathological pain.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2013
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    Enshe Jiang · Xisheng Yan · Han-Rong Weng
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    ABSTRACT: Decreased GABAergic synaptic strength ('disinhibition') in the spinal dorsal horn is a crucial mechanism contributing to the development and maintenance of pathological pain. However, mechanisms leading to disinhibition in the spinal dorsal horn remain elusive. We investigated the role of glial glutamate transporters (GLT-1 and GLAST) and glutamine synthetase in maintaining GABAergic synaptic activity in the spinal dorsal horn. Electrically evoked GABAergic inhibitory post-synaptic currents (eIPSCs), spontaneous IPSCs (sIPSCs) and miniature IPSCs were recorded in superficial spinal dorsal horn neurons of spinal slices from young adult rats. We used (2S,3S)-3-[3-[4-(trifluoromethyl)benzoylamino]benzyloxy]aspartate (TFB-TBOA), to block both GLT-1 and GLAST and dihydrokainic acid to block only GLT-1. We found that blockade of both GLAST and GLT-1 and blockade of only GLT-1 in the spinal dorsal horn decreased the amplitude of GABAergic eIPSCs, as well as both the amplitude and frequency of GABAergic sIPSCs or miniature IPSCs. Pharmacological inhibition of glial glutamine synthetase had similar effects on both GABAergic eIPSCs and sIPSCs. We provided evidence demonstrating that the reduction in GABAergic strength induced by the inhibition of glial glutamate transporters is due to insufficient GABA synthesis through the glutamate-glutamine cycle between astrocytes and neurons. Thus, our results indicate that deficient glial glutamate transporters and glutamine synthetase significantly attenuate GABAergic synaptic strength in the spinal dorsal horn, which may be a crucial synaptic mechanism underlying glial-neuronal interactions caused by dysfunctional astrocytes in pathological pain conditions.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2012 · Journal of Neurochemistry

Publication Stats

96 Citations
47.43 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013-2015
    • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
      • Department of Pain Medicine
      Houston, Texas, United States
    • University of Georgia
      • Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences
      Атина, Georgia, United States