The dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) has been recognized as a key cortical area for nociceptive modulation. However, the underlying neural pathway and the function of specific cell types remain largely unclear. Here, we showed that lesions of the dmPFC induced an algesic and anxious state. By using multiple tracing methods including rabies-based transsynaptic tracing method, an excitatory descending neural pathway from the dmPFC to the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) was outlined. Specific activation of the dmPFC-vlPAG neural pathway by an optogenetic manipulation, produced analgesic and anxiolytic effects in a chronic pain mice model. Inhibitory neurons in the dmPFC were specifically activated by using a chemogenetic approach, which logically produced an algesic and anxious state under both normal and chronic pain conditions. Antagonists of GABAAR or mGluR1 were applied to the dmPFC, which produced analgesic and anxiolytic effects. In summary, the present results suggest that the dmPFC-vlPAG neural pathway might participate in the maintenance of pain thresholds and anxiolytic behaviors under normal conditions, while silencing or suppressing the dmPFC-vlPAG pathway might be involved in the initial stages and maintenance of chronic pain and the emergence of anxiety-like behaviors.
Jun-Bin Yin, Shao-Hua Liang, Fei Li, Wen-Jun Zhao, Yang Bai, Yi Sun, Zhen-Yu Wu, Tan Ding, Yan Sun, Hai-Xia Liu, Ya-Cheng Lu, Ting Zhang, Jing Huang, Tao Chen, Hui Li, Zhou-Feng Chen, Jing Cao, Rui Ren, Ya-Nan Peng, Juan Yang, Wei-Dong Zang, Xiang Li, Yu-Lin Dong, Yun-Qing Li