Classical Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (cEDS) is a connective tissue disorder caused by heterozygous mutations in one of the type V collagen-encoding genes, COL5A1 or COL5A2. cEDS is characterized by generalized joint hypermobility and instability, hyperextensible, fragile skin and delayed wound healing. Chronic pain is a major problem in cEDS patients, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown, and studies in animal models are lacking. Therefore, we assessed pain-related behaviors in haploinsufficient Col5a1 mice, which clinically mimic human cEDS. Compared to wild-type (WT) littermates, 15-20 week-old Col5a1 mice of both sexes showed significant hypersensitivity to mechanical stimuli in the hind paws and the abdominal area, but responses to thermal stimuli were unaltered. Spontaneous behaviors, including distance travelled and rearing, were grossly normal in male Col5a1 mice, while female Col5a1 mice showed altered climbing behavior. Finally, male and female Col5a1 mice vocalized more than WT littermates when scruffed. Decreased grip strength was also noted. In view of the observed pain phenotype Col5a1 mice were crossed with NaV1.8-tdTomato reporter mice, enabling visualization of nociceptors in the glabrous skin of the footpad. We observed a significant decrease in intra-epidermal nerve fiber density, with fewer nerves crossing the epidermis, and a decreased total nerve length of Col5a1 mice compared to WT. In summary, male and female Col5a1 mice show hypersensitivity to mechanical stimuli, indicative of generalized sensitization of the nervous system, in conjunction with an aberrant organization of cutaneous nociceptors. Therefore, Col5a1 mice will provide a useful tool to study mechanisms of pain associated with cEDS.

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