Venom-derived Na1.7 channel blockers have promising prospects in pain management. The 34-residue tarantula peptide GpTx-1 is a potent Na1.7 channel blocker. Its powerful analog [Ala, Phe, Leu, Arg]GpTx-1 (GpTx-1-71) displayed excellent Na1.7 selectivity and analgesic properties in mice. The current study aimed to elucidate the anti-hyperalgesic activities of GpTx-1-71 in inflammatory pain and reveal the underlying mechanisms. Our results demonstrated that intrathecal and intraplantar injections of GpTx-1-71 dose-dependently attenuated CFA-induced inflammatory hypersensitivity in rats. Moreover, GpTx-1-71-induced anti-hyperalgesia was significantly reduced by opioid receptor antagonists and the enkephalin antibody and diminished in proenkephalin (Penk) gene knockout animals. Consistently, GpTx-1-71 treatment increased the enkephalin level in the spinal dorsal horn and promoted the Penk transcription and enkephalin release in primary dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, wherein sodium played a crucial role in these processes. Mass spectrometry analysis revealed that GpTx-1-71 mainly promoted the secretion of Met-enkephalin but not Leu-enkephalin from DRG neurons. In addition, the combination of subtherapeutic Met-enkephalin and GpTx-1-71 produced synergistic anti-hyperalgesia in CFA-induced inflammatory hypersensitivity. These findings suggest that the endogenous enkephalin pathway is essential for GpTx-1-71-induced spinal and peripheral analgesia in inflammatory pain. Perspective: This article presents a possible pharmacological mechanism underlying Na1.7 blocker-induced analgesia in inflammatory pain, which helps us to better understand and develop venom-based painkillers for incurable pain.
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