Trigeminal Nociception in the African Naked Mole-Rat: The Acid Test

2014-04-15T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Pamela C. LaVinka
Acidosis in the skin triggers activation of pain pathways, and behaviors indicative of pain in vertebrates. The exception is the naked mole-rat, the only known vertebrate to show physiological and behavioral insensitivity to acid pain in the skin. The goal of the present study was to determine behavioral and physiological responses of this species to airborne acidic fumes, which would be expected to affect the trigeminal pain pathway in other species. Behaviorally, naked mole-rats did not avoid fumes from moderately high concentrations of acetic acid (10 and 20%), and c Fos labeling showed no increase in activity in the trigeminal and vagal nuclei. In contrast, these concentrations triggered behavioral aversion and increased Fos activity in other laboratory rodents. For a very high concentration of acetic acid (50%), naked mole-rats showed significant avoidance behavior and increased Fos labeling in the vagus nucleus. However, there was no increase in trigeminal labeling, and in fact, activity significantly decreased. This pattern is opposite of that associated with another irritant, ammonia fumes, which elicited an increase in trigeminal but not vagal Fos labeling, and no behavioral avoidance. Behavioral avoidance of acidic fumes, but no increased labeling in the trigeminal pain nucleus is consistent with the notion of adaptations to blunt acid pain, which would be advantageous for naked mole-rats as they normally live under chronically high levels of acidosis-inducing CO2.

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