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This article is the author's final published version in Pharmacological Research, Volume 206, 2024, Article number 107284.

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Ephrin-B-EphB signaling can promote pain through ligand-receptor interactions between peripheral cells, like immune cells expressing ephrin-Bs, and EphB receptors expressed by DRG neurons. Previous studies have shown increased ephrin-B2 expression in peripheral tissues like synovium of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis patients, indicating the clinical significance of this signaling. The primary goal of this study was to understand how ephrin-B2 acts on mouse and human DRG neurons, which express EphB receptors, to promote pain and nociceptor plasticity. We hypothesized that ephrin-B2 would promote nociceptor plasticity and hyperalgesic priming through MNK-eIF4E signaling, a critical mechanism for nociceptive plasticity induced by growth factors, cytokines and nerve injury. Both male and female mice developed dose-dependent mechanical hypersensitivity in response to ephrin-B2, and both sexes showed hyperalgesic priming when challenged with PGE2 injection either to the paw or the cranial dura. Acute nociceptive behaviors and hyperalgesic priming were blocked in mice lacking MNK1 (Mknk1 knockout mice) and by eFT508, a specific MNK inhibitor. Sensory neuron-specific knockout of EphB2 using Pirt-Cre demonstrated that ephrin-B2 actions require this receptor. In Ca2+-imaging experiments on cultured DRG neurons, ephrin-B2 treatment enhanced Ca2+ transients in response to PGE2 and these effects were absent in DRG neurons from MNK1-/- and EphB2-PirtCre mice. In experiments on human DRG neurons, ephrin-B2 increased eIF4E phosphorylation and enhanced Ca2+ responses to PGE2 treatment, both blocked by eFT508. We conclude that ephrin-B2 acts directly on mouse and human sensory neurons to induce nociceptor plasticity via MNK-eIF4E signaling, offering new insight into how ephrin-B signaling promotes pain.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.