Sensitization of colonic nociceptors by IL-13 is dependent on JAK and p38 MAPK activity.


The effective management of visceral pain is a significant unmet clinical need for those affected by gastrointestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The rational design of novel analgesics requires a greater understanding of the mediators and mechanisms underpinning visceral pain. Interleukin-13 (IL-13) production by immune cells residing in the gut is elevated in IBD, and IL-13 appears to be important in the development of experimental colitis. Furthermore, receptors for IL-13 are expressed by neurons innervating the colon, though it is not known whether IL-13 plays any role in visceral nociception per se. To resolve this, we used Ca2+ imaging of cultured sensory neurons and ex vivo electrophysiological recording from the lumbar splanchnic nerve innervating the distal colon. Ca2+ imaging revealed the stimulation of small-diameter, capsaicin-sensitive sensory neurons by IL-13, indicating that IL-13 likely stimulates nociceptors. IL-13-evoked Ca2+ signals were attenuated by inhibition of Janus (JAK) and p38 kinases. In the lumbar splanchnic nerve, IL-13 did not elevate baseline firing, nor sensitize the response to capsaicin application, but did enhance the response to distention of the colon. In line with Ca2+ imaging experiments, IL-13-mediated sensitization of the afferent response to colon distention was blocked by inhibition of either JAK or p38 kinase signaling. Together, these data highlight a potential role for IL-13 in visceral nociception and implicate JAK and p38 kinases in pronociceptive signaling downstream of IL-13.