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1.  Pain without Nociceptors? Nav1.7-Independent Pain Mechanisms 
Cell Reports  2014;6(2):301-312.
Nav1.7, a peripheral neuron voltage-gated sodium channel, is essential for pain and olfaction in mice and humans. We examined the role of Nav1.7 as well as Nav1.3, Nav1.8, and Nav1.9 in different mouse models of chronic pain. Constriction-injury-dependent neuropathic pain is abolished when Nav1.7 is deleted in sensory neurons, unlike nerve-transection-related pain, which requires the deletion of Nav1.7 in sensory and sympathetic neurons for pain relief. Sympathetic sprouting that develops in parallel with nerve-transection pain depends on the presence of Nav1.7 in sympathetic neurons. Mechanical and cold allodynia required distinct sets of neurons and different repertoires of sodium channels depending on the nerve injury model. Surprisingly, pain induced by the chemotherapeutic agent oxaliplatin and cancer-induced bone pain do not require the presence of Nav1.7 sodium channels or Nav1.8-positive nociceptors. Thus, similar pain phenotypes arise through distinct cellular and molecular mechanisms. Therefore, rational analgesic drug therapy requires patient stratification in terms of mechanisms and not just phenotype.
Graphical Abstract
•Phenotypically identical pain models have different underlying molecular mechanisms•Nav1.7 expression is required for sympathetic sprouting after neuronal damage•Oxaliplatin and cancer-induced bone pain are both Nav1.7-independent•Deleting Nav1.7 in adult mice reverses nerve damage-induced neuropathic pain
Wood and colleagues describe two pain syndromes that occur in the absence of Nav1.7, a sodium channel considered to be essential for pain perception and olfaction in humans. They provide evidence that pain phenotypes such as cold and mechanical allodynia can arise through distinct cell and molecular mechanisms after nerve injury in mouse peripheral sensory neurons. The existence of redundant mechanistically distinct peripheral pain mechanisms may help to explain recent difficulties with the development of new analgesic drugs.
PMCID: PMC3969273  PMID: 24440715
2.  Voltage-gated sodium channel expression in mouse DRG after SNI leads to re-evaluation of projections of injured fibers 
Molecular Pain  2014;10:19.
Dysregulation of voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) is believed to play a major role in nerve fiber hyperexcitability associated with neuropathic pain. A complete transcriptional characterization of the different isoforms of Navs under normal and pathological conditions had never been performed on mice, despite their widespread use in pain research. Navs mRNA levels in mouse dorsal root ganglia (DRG) were studied in the spared nerve injury (SNI) and spinal nerve ligation (SNL) models of neuropathic pain. In the SNI model, injured and non-injured neurons were intermingled in lumbar DRG, which were pooled to increase the tissue available for experiments.
A strong downregulation was observed for every Navs isoform expressed except for Nav1.2; even Nav1.3, known to be upregulated in rat neuropathic pain models, was lower in the SNI mouse model. This suggests differences between these two species. In the SNL model, where the cell bodies of injured and non-injured fibers are anatomically separated between different DRG, most Navs were observed to be downregulated in the L5 DRG receiving axotomized fibers. Transcription was then investigated independently in the L3, L4 and L5 DRG in the SNI model, and an important downregulation of many Navs isoforms was observed in the L3 DRG, suggesting the presence of numerous injured neurons there after SNI. Consequently, the proportion of axotomized neurons in the L3, L4 and L5 DRG after SNI was characterized by studying the expression of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3). Using this marker of nerve injury confirmed that most injured fibers find their cell bodies in the L3 and L4 DRG after SNI in C57BL/6 J mice; this contrasts with their L4 and L5 DRG localization in rats. The spared sural nerve, through which pain hypersensitivity is measured in behavioral studies, mostly projects into the L4 and L5 DRG.
The complex regulation of Navs, together with the anatomical rostral shift of the DRG harboring injured fibers in C57BL/6 J mice, emphasize that caution is necessary and preliminary anatomical experiments should be carried out for gene and protein expression studies after SNI in mouse strains.
PMCID: PMC4007621  PMID: 24618114
Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3); Dorsal root ganglia (DRG); Nerve injury; Neuropathic pain; Quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR); Sciatic nerve; Spared nerve injury (SNI); Spinal nerve ligation (SNL); Voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs)
3.  Distinct Nav1.7-dependent pain sensations require different sets of sensory and sympathetic neurons 
Nature Communications  2012;3:791-.
Human acute and inflammatory pain requires the expression of voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7 but its significance for neuropathic pain is unknown. Here we show that Nav1.7 expression in different sets of mouse sensory and sympathetic neurons underlies distinct types of pain sensation. Ablating Nav1.7 gene (SCN9A) expression in all sensory neurons using Advillin-Cre abolishes mechanical pain, inflammatory pain and reflex withdrawal responses to heat. In contrast, heat-evoked pain is retained when SCN9A is deleted only in Nav1.8-positive nociceptors. Surprisingly, responses to the hotplate test, as well as neuropathic pain, are unaffected when SCN9A is deleted in all sensory neurons. However, deleting SCN9A in both sensory and sympathetic neurons abolishes these pain sensations and recapitulates the pain-free phenotype seen in humans with SCN9A loss-of-function mutations. These observations demonstrate an important role for Nav1.7 in sympathetic neurons in neuropathic pain, and provide possible insights into the mechanisms that underlie gain-of-function Nav1.7-dependent pain conditions.
Sodium channel Nav1.7 is essential for acute human pain but its role in chronic neuropathic pain is unclear. Minett and colleagues show that Nav1.7 expression specifically in sympathetic neurons, rather than sensory neurons, is required for the development of chronic neuropathic pain after injury.
PMCID: PMC3337979  PMID: 22531176
4.  Dysregulation of voltage-gated sodium channels by ubiquitin ligase NEDD4-2 in neuropathic pain 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(7):3002-3013.
Peripheral neuropathic pain is a disabling condition resulting from nerve injury. It is characterized by the dysregulation of voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) expressed in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons. The mechanisms underlying the altered expression of Navs remain unknown. This study investigated the role of the E3 ubiquitin ligase NEDD4-2, which is known to ubiquitylate Navs, in the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain in mice. The spared nerve injury (SNI) model of traumatic nerve injury–induced neuropathic pain was used, and an Nav1.7-specific inhibitor, ProTxII, allowed the isolation of Nav1.7-mediated currents. SNI decreased NEDD4-2 expression in DRG cells and increased the amplitude of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 currents. The redistribution of Nav1.7 channels toward peripheral axons was also observed. Similar changes were observed in the nociceptive DRG neurons of Nedd4L knockout mice (SNS-Nedd4L–/–). SNS-Nedd4L–/– mice exhibited thermal hypersensitivity and an enhanced second pain phase after formalin injection. Restoration of NEDD4-2 expression in DRG neurons using recombinant adenoassociated virus (rAAV2/6) not only reduced Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 current amplitudes, but also alleviated SNI-induced mechanical allodynia. These findings demonstrate that NEDD4-2 is a potent posttranslational regulator of Navs and that downregulation of NEDD4-2 leads to the hyperexcitability of DRG neurons and contributes to the genesis of pathological pain.
PMCID: PMC3696561  PMID: 23778145
5.  Increased peripheral nerve excitability and local NaV1.8 mRNA up-regulation in painful neuropathy 
Molecular Pain  2009;5:14.
Neuropathic pain caused by peripheral nerve injury is a chronic disorder that represents a significant clinical challenge because the pathological mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Several studies have suggested the involvement of various sodium channels, including tetrodotoxin-resistant NaV1.8, in affected dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. We have hypothesized that altered local expression of NaV1.8 in the peripheral axons of DRG neurons could facilitate nociceptive signal generation and propagation after neuropathic injury.
After unilateral sciatic nerve entrapment injury in rats, compound action potential amplitudes were increased in both myelinated and unmyelinated fibers of the ipsilateral sciatic nerve. Tetrodotoxin resistance of both fiber populations and sciatic nerve NaV1.8 immunoreactivity were also increased. Further analysis of NaV1.8 distribution revealed that immunoreactivity and mRNA levels were decreased and unaffected, respectively, in the ipsilateral L4 and L5 DRG; however sciatic nerve NaV1.8 mRNA showed nearly an 11-fold ipsilateral increase. Nav1.8 mRNA observed in the sciatic nerve was likely of axonal origin since it was not detected in non-neuronal cells cultured from nerve tissue. Absence of changes in NaV1.8 mRNA polyadenylation suggests that increased mRNA stability was not responsible for the selective peripheral mRNA increase. Furthermore, mRNA levels of NaV1.3, NaV1.5, NaV1.6, NaV1.7, and NaV1.9 were not significantly different between ipsilateral and contralateral nerves. We therefore propose that selective NaV1.8 mRNA axonal transport and local up-regulation could contribute to the hyperexcitability of peripheral nerves in some neuropathic pain states.
Cuff entrapment injury resulted in significantly elevated axonal excitability and increased NaV1.8 immunoreactivity in rat sciatic nerves. The concomitant axonal accumulation of NaV1.8 mRNA may play a role in the pathogenesis of this model of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC2667430  PMID: 19320998
6.  Neuropathic pain develops normally in mice lacking both Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 
Molecular Pain  2005;1:24.
Two voltage gated sodium channel α-subunits, Nav1.7 and Nav1.8, are expressed at high levels in nociceptor terminals and have been implicated in the development of inflammatory pain. Mis-expression of voltage-gated sodium channels by damaged sensory neurons has also been implicated in the development of neuropathic pain, but the role of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 is uncertain. Here we show that deleting Nav1.7 has no effect on the development of neuropathic pain. Double knockouts of both Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 also develop normal levels of neuropathic pain, despite a lack of inflammatory pain symptoms and altered mechanical and thermal acute pain thresholds. These studies demonstrate that, in contrast to the highly significant role for Nav1.7 in determining inflammatory pain thresholds, the development of neuropathic pain does not require the presence of either Nav1.7 or Nav1.8 alone or in combination.
PMCID: PMC1215513  PMID: 16111501
7.  Effects of ranolazine on wild-type and mutant hNav1.7 channels and on DRG neuron excitability 
Molecular Pain  2010;6:35.
A direct role of sodium channels in pain has recently been confirmed by establishing a monogenic link between SCN9A, the gene which encodes sodium channel Nav1.7, and pain disorders in humans, with gain-of-function mutations causing severe pain syndromes, and loss-of-function mutations causing congenital indifference to pain. Expression of sodium channel Nav1.8 in DRG neurons has also been shown to be essential for the manifestation of mutant Nav1.7-induced neuronal hyperexcitability. These findings have confirmed key roles of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 in pain and identify these channels as novel targets for pain therapeutic development. Ranolazine preferentially blocks cardiac late sodium currents at concentrations that do not significantly reduce peak sodium current. Ranolazine also blocks wild-type Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 channels in a use-dependent manner. However, ranolazine's effects on gain-of-function mutations of Nav1.7 and on DRG neuron excitability have not been investigated. We used voltage- and current-clamp recordings to evaluate the hypothesis that ranolazine may be effective in regulating Nav1.7-induced DRG neuron hyperexcitability.
We show that ranolazine produces comparable block of peak and ramp currents of wild-type Nav1.7 and mutant Nav1.7 channels linked to Inherited Erythromelalgia and Paroxysmal Extreme Pain Disorder. We also show that ranolazine, at a clinically-relevant concentration, blocks high-frequency firing of DRG neurons expressing wild-type but not mutant channels.
Our data suggest that ranalozine can attenuate hyperexcitability of DRG neurons over-expressing wild-type Nav1.7 channels, as occurs in acquired neuropathic and inflammatory pain, and thus merits further study as an alternative to existing non-selective sodium channel blockers.
PMCID: PMC2898769  PMID: 20529343
8.  Neuropathic Nav1.3-mediated sensitization to P2X activation is regulated by protein kinase C 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:14.
Increased neuronal excitability and spontaneous firing are hallmark characteristics of injured sensory neurons. Changes in expression of various voltage-gated Na+ channels (VGSCs) have been observed under neuropathic conditions and there is evidence for the involvement of protein kinase C (PKC) in sensory hyperexcitability. Here we demonstrate the contribution of PKC to P2X-evoked VGSC activation in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in neuropathic conditions.
Using the spinal nerve ligation (SNL) model of neuropathic pain and whole-cell patch clamp recordings of dissociated DRG neurons, we examined changes in excitability of sensory neurons after nerve injury and observed that P2X3 purinoceptor-mediated currents induced by α,β-meATP triggered activation of TTX-sensitive VGSCs in neuropathic nociceptors only. Treatment of neuropathic DRGs with the PKC blocker staurosporine or calphostin C decreased the α,β-meATP-induced Na+ channels activity and reversed neuronal hypersensitivity. In current clamp mode, α,β-meATP was able to evoke action-potentials more frequently in neuropathic neurons than in controls. Pretreatment with calphostin C significantly decreased the proportion of sensitized neurons that generated action potentials in response to α,β-meATP. Recordings measuring VGSC activity in neuropathic neurons show significant change in amplitude and voltage dependence of sodium currents. In situ hybridization data indicate a dramatic increase in expression of embryonic Nav1.3 channels in neuropathic DRG neurons. In a CHO cell line stably expressing the Nav1.3 subunit, PKC inhibition caused both a significant shift in voltage-dependence of the channel in the depolarizing direction and a decrease in current amplitude.
Neuropathic injury causes primary sensory neurons to become hyperexcitable to ATP-evoked P2X receptor-mediated depolarization, a phenotypic switch sensitive to PKC modulation and mediated by increased activity of TTX-sensitive VGSCs. Upregulation in VGSC activity after injury is likely mediated by increased expression of the Nav1.3 subunit, and the function of the Nav1.3 channel is regulated by PKC.
PMCID: PMC3050763  PMID: 21314936
9.  A Novel Nav1.7 Mutation Producing Carbamazepine-Responsive Erythromelalgia 
Annals of neurology  2009;65(6):733-741.
Human and animal studies have shown that Nav1.7 sodium channels, which are preferentially expressed within nociceptors and sympathetic neurons, play a major role in inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Inherited erythromelalgia (IEM) has been linked to gain-of-function mutations of Nav1.7. We now report a novel mutation (V400M) in a three-generation Canadian family in which pain is relieved by carbamazepine (CBZ).
We extracted genomic DNA from blood samples of eight members of the family, and the sequence of SCN9A coding exons was compared with the reference Nav1.7 complementary DNA. Wild-type Nav1.7 and V400M cell lines were then analyzed using whole-cell patch-clamp recording for changes in activation, deactivation, steady-state inactivation, and ramp currents.
Whole-cell patch-clamp studies of V400M demonstrate changes in activation, deactivation, steady-state inactivation, and ramp currents that can produce dorsal root ganglia neuron hyperexcitability that underlies pain in these patients. We show that CBZ, at concentrations in the human therapeutic range, normalizes the voltage dependence of activation and inactivation of this inherited erythromelalgia mutation in Nav1.7 but does not affect these parameters in wild-type Nav1.7.
Our results demonstrate a normalizing effect of CBZ on mutant Nav1.7 channels in this kindred with CBZ-responsive inherited erythromelalgia. The selective effect of CBZ on the mutant Nav1.7 channel appears to explain the ameliorative response to treatment in this kindred. Our results suggest that functional expression and pharmacological studies may provide mechanistic insights into hereditary painful disorders.
PMCID: PMC4103031  PMID: 19557861
10.  Inflammatory Mediators Increase Nav1.9 Current and Excitability in Nociceptors through a Coincident Detection Mechanism 
The Journal of General Physiology  2008;131(3):211-225.
Altered function of Na+ channels is responsible for increased hyperexcitability of primary afferent neurons that may underlie pathological pain states. Recent evidence suggests that the Nav1.9 subunit is implicated in inflammatory but not acute pain. However, the contribution of Nav1.9 channels to the cellular events underlying nociceptor hyperexcitability is still unknown, and there remains much uncertainty as to the biophysical properties of Nav1.9 current and its modulation by inflammatory mediators. Here, we use gene targeting strategy and computer modeling to identify Nav1.9 channel current signature and its impact on nociceptors' firing patterns. Recordings using internal fluoride in small DRG neurons from wild-type and Nav1.9-null mutant mice demonstrated that Nav1.9 subunits carry the TTX-resistant “persistent” Na+ current called NaN. Nav1.9−/− nociceptors showed no significant change in the properties of the slowly inactivating TTX-resistant SNS/Nav1.8 current. The loss in Nav1.9-mediated Na+ currents was associated with the inability of small DRG neurons to generate a large variety of electrophysiological behaviors, including subthreshold regenerative depolarizations, plateau potentials, active hyperpolarizing responses, oscillatory bursting discharges, and bistable membrane behaviors. We further investigated, using CsCl- and KCl-based pipette solutions, whether G-protein signaling pathways and inflammatory mediators upregulate the NaN/Nav1.9 current. Bradykinin, ATP, histamine, prostaglandin-E2, and norepinephrine, applied separately at maximal concentrations, all failed to modulate the Nav1.9 current. However, when applied conjointly as a soup of inflammatory mediators they rapidly potentiated Nav1.9 channel activity, generating subthreshold amplification and increased excitability. We conclude that Nav1.9 channel, the molecular correlate of the NaN current, is potentiated by the concerted action of inflammatory mediators that may contribute to nociceptors' hyperexcitability during peripheral inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2248717  PMID: 18270172
11.  Spontaneous Excitation Patterns Computed for Axons with Injury-like Impairments of Sodium Channels and Na/K Pumps 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(9):e1002664.
In injured neurons, “leaky” voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav) underlie dysfunctional excitability that ranges from spontaneous subthreshold oscillations (STO), to ectopic (sometimes paroxysmal) excitation, to depolarizing block. In recombinant systems, mechanical injury to Nav1.6-rich membranes causes cytoplasmic Na+-loading and “Nav-CLS”, i.e., coupled left-(hyperpolarizing)-shift of Nav activation and availability. Metabolic injury of hippocampal neurons (epileptic discharge) results in comparable impairment: left-shifted activation and availability and hence left-shifted INa-window. A recent computation study revealed that CLS-based INa-window left-shift dissipates ion gradients and impairs excitability. Here, via dynamical analyses, we focus on sustained excitability patterns in mildly damaged nodes, in particular with more realistic Gaussian-distributed Nav-CLS to mimic “smeared” injury intensity. Since our interest is axons that might survive injury, pumps (sine qua non for live axons) are included. In some simulations, pump efficacy and system volumes are varied. Impacts of current noise inputs are also characterized. The diverse modes of spontaneous rhythmic activity evident in these scenarios are studied using bifurcation analysis. For “mild CLS injury”, a prominent feature is slow pump/leak-mediated EIon oscillations. These slow oscillations yield dynamic firing thresholds that underlie complex voltage STO and bursting behaviors. Thus, Nav-CLS, a biophysically justified mode of injury, in parallel with functioning pumps, robustly engenders an emergent slow process that triggers a plethora of pathological excitability patterns. This minimalist “device” could have physiological analogs. At first nodes of Ranvier and at nociceptors, e.g., localized lipid-tuning that modulated Nav midpoints could produce Nav-CLS, as could co-expression of appropriately differing Nav isoforms.
Author Summary
Nerve cells damaged by trauma, stroke, epilepsy, inflammatory conditions etc, have chronically leaky sodium channels that eventually kill. The usual job of sodium channels is to make brief voltage signals –action potentials– for long distance propagation. After sodium channels open to generate action potentials, sodium pumps work harder to re-establish the intracellular/extracellular sodium imbalance that is, literally, the neuron's battery for firing action potentials. Wherever tissue damage renders membranes overly fluid, we hypothesize, sodium channels become chronically leaky. Our experimental findings justify this. In fluidized membranes, sodium channel voltage sensors respond too easily, letting channels spend too much time open. Channels leak, pumps respond. By mathematical modeling, we show that in damaged channel-rich membranes the continual pump/leak counterplay would trigger the kinds of bizarre intermittent action potential bursts typical of injured neurons. Arising ectopically from injury regions, such neuropathic firing is unrelated to events in the external world. Drugs that can silence these deleterious electrical barrages without blocking healthy action potentials are needed. If fluidized membranes house the problematic leaky sodium channels, then drug side effects could be diminished by using drugs that accumulate most avidly into fluidized membranes, and that bind their targets with highest affinity there.
PMCID: PMC3441427  PMID: 23028273
12.  The roles of sodium channels in nociception: implications for mechanisms of pain 
Pain  2007;131(3):243-257.
Understanding the role of voltage-gated sodium channels in nociception may provide important insights into pain mechanisms. Voltage-gated sodium channels are critically important for electrogenesis and nerve impulse conduction, and a target for important clinically relevant analgesics such as lidocaine. Furthermore, within the last decade studies have shown that certain sodium channel isoforms are predominantly expressed in peripheral sensory neurons associated with pain sensation, and that the expression and functional properties of voltage-gated sodium channels in peripheral sensory neurons can be dynamically regulated following axonal injury or peripheral inflammation. These data suggest that specific voltage-gated sodium channels may play crucial roles in nociception. Experiments with transgenic mice lines have clearly implicated Nav1.7, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 in inflammatory, and possibly neuropathic, pain. However the most convincing and perhaps most exciting results regarding the role of voltage-gated sodium channels has come out recently from studies on human inherited disorders of nociception. Point mutations in Nav1.7 have been identified in patients with two distinct autosomal dominant severe chronic pain syndromes. Electrophysiological experiments indicate that these pain-associated mutations cause small yet significant changes in the gating properties of voltage-gated sodium channels that are likely to contribute substantially to the development of chronic pain. Equally exciting, a recent study has indicated that recessive mutations in Nav1.7 that eliminate functional current can result in an apparent complete, and possibly specific, indifference to pain in humans, suggesting that isoform specific blockers could be very effective in treating pain. In this review we will examine what is known about the roles of voltage-gated sodium channels in nociception.
PMCID: PMC2055547  PMID: 17766042
13.  Multiple roles for NaV1.9 in the activation of visceral afferents by noxious inflammatory, mechanical, and human disease–derived stimuli 
Pain  2014;155(10):1962-1975.
NaV1.9 regulates normal colonic afferent mechanosensation and is required for hypersensitivity to noxious inflammatory mediators and those derived from inflammatory bowel disease tissues.
Chronic visceral pain affects millions of individuals worldwide and remains poorly understood, with current therapeutic options constrained by gastrointestinal adverse effects. Visceral pain is strongly associated with inflammation and distension of the gut. Here we report that the voltage-gated sodium channel subtype NaV1.9 is expressed in half of gut-projecting rodent dorsal root ganglia sensory neurons. We show that NaV1.9 is required for normal mechanosensation, for direct excitation and for sensitization of mouse colonic afferents by mediators from inflammatory bowel disease tissues, and by noxious inflammatory mediators individually. Excitatory responses to ATP or PGE2 were substantially reduced in NaV1.9−/− mice. Deletion of NaV1.9 substantially attenuates excitation and subsequent mechanical hypersensitivity after application of inflammatory soup (IS) (bradykinin, ATP, histamine, PGE2, and 5HT) to visceral nociceptors located in the serosa and mesentery. Responses to mechanical stimulation of mesenteric afferents were also reduced by loss of NaV1.9, and there was a rightward shift in stimulus–response function to ramp colonic distension. By contrast, responses to rapid, high-intensity phasic distension of the colon are initially unaffected; however, run-down of responses to repeat phasic distension were exacerbated in NaV1.9−/− afferents. Finally colonic afferent activation by supernatants derived from inflamed human tissue was greatly reduced in NaV1.9−/− mice. These results demonstrate that NaV1.9 is required for persistence of responses to intense mechanical stimulation, contributes to inflammatory mechanical hypersensitivity, and is essential for activation by noxious inflammatory mediators, including those from diseased human bowel. These observations indicate that NaV1.9 represents a high-value target for development of visceral analgesics.
PMCID: PMC4220011  PMID: 24972070
Distal colon; Inflammatory bowel disease; NaV1.9; Nociceptor sensitivity; Noxious distension; Supernatants; Visceral hypersensitivity; Visceral pain; Voltage-gated sodium channel
14.  Correlation of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 sodium channel expression with neuropathic pain in human subjects with lingual nerve neuromas 
Molecular Pain  2013;9:52.
Voltage-gated sodium channels Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are expressed preferentially in small diameter sensory neurons, and are thought to play a role in the generation of ectopic activity in neuronal cell bodies and/or their axons following peripheral nerve injury. The expression of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 has been quantified in human lingual nerves that have been previously injured inadvertently during lower third molar removal, and any correlation between the expression of these ion channels and the presence or absence of dysaesthesia investigated.
Immunohistochemical processing and quantitative image analysis revealed that Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 were expressed in human lingual nerve neuromas from patients with or without symptoms of dysaesthesia. The level of Nav1.8 expression was significantly higher in patients reporting pain compared with no pain, and a significant positive correlation was observed between levels of Nav1.8 expression and VAS scores for the symptom of tingling. No significant differences were recorded in the level of expression of Nav1.9 between patients with or without pain.
These results demonstrate that Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are present in human lingual nerve neuromas, with significant correlations between the level of expression of Nav1.8 and symptoms of pain. These data provide further evidence that changes in expression of Nav1.8 are important in the development and/or maintenance of nerve injury-induced pain, and suggest that Nav1.8 may be a potential therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC4016210  PMID: 24144460
Lingual nerve; Nerve injury; Trigeminal; Neuropathic pain; Dysaesthesia; Tingling; Nav1.8; Nav1.9
15.  Global Nav1.7 Knockout Mice Recapitulate the Phenotype of Human Congenital Indifference to Pain 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e105895.
Clinical genetic studies have shown that loss of Nav1.7 function leads to the complete loss of acute pain perception. The global deletion is reported lethal in mice, however, and studies of mice with promoter-specific deletions of Nav1.7 have suggested that the role of Nav1.7 in pain transduction depends on the precise form of pain. We developed genetic and animal husbandry strategies that overcame the neonatal-lethal phenotype and enabled construction of a global Nav1.7 knockout mouse. Knockouts were anatomically normal, reached adulthood, and had phenotype wholly analogous to human congenital indifference to pain (CIP): compared to littermates, knockouts showed no defects in mechanical sensitivity or overall movement yet were completely insensitive to painful tactile, thermal, and chemical stimuli and were anosmic. Knockouts also showed no painful behaviors resulting from peripheral injection of nonselective sodium channel activators, did not develop complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced thermal hyperalgesia, and were insensitive to intra-dermal histamine injection. Tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium current recorded from cell bodies of isolated sensory neurons and the mechanically-evoked spiking of C-fibers in a skin-nerve preparation each were reduced but not eliminated in tissue from knockouts compared to littermates. Results support a role for Nav1.7 that is conserved between rodents and humans and suggest several possibly translatable biomarkers for the study of Nav1.7-targeted therapeutics. Results further suggest that Nav1.7 may retain its key role in persistent as well as acute forms of pain.
PMCID: PMC4154897  PMID: 25188265
16.  Nav1.1 haploinsufficiency in excitatory neurons ameliorates seizure-associated sudden death in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(23):4784-4804.
Dravet syndrome is a severe epileptic encephalopathy mainly caused by heterozygous mutations in the SCN1A gene encoding a voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.1. We previously reported dense localization of Nav1.1 in parvalbumin (PV)-positive inhibitory interneurons in mice and abnormal firing of those neurons in Nav1.1-deficient mice. In the present study, we investigated the physiologic consequence of selective Nav1.1 deletion in mouse global inhibitory neurons, forebrain excitatory neurons or PV cells, using vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT)-Cre, empty spiracles homolog 1 (Emx1)-Cre or PV-Cre recombinase drivers. We show that selective Nav1.1 deletion using VGAT-Cre causes epileptic seizures and premature death that are unexpectedly more severe than those observed in constitutive Nav1.1-deficient mice. Nav1.1 deletion using Emx1-Cre does not cause any noticeable abnormalities in mice; however, the severe lethality observed with VGAT-Cre-driven Nav1.1 deletion is rescued by additional Nav1.1 deletion using Emx1-Cre. In addition to predominant expression in PV interneurons, we detected Nav1.1 in subpopulations of excitatory neurons, including entorhino-hippocampal projection neurons, a subpopulation of neocortical layer V excitatory neurons, and thalamo-cortical projection neurons. We further show that even minimal selective Nav1.1 deletion, using PV-Cre, is sufficient to cause spontaneous epileptic seizures and ataxia in mice. Overall, our results indicate that functional impairment of PV inhibitory neurons with Nav1.1 haploinsufficiency contributes to the epileptic pathology of Dravet syndrome, and show for the first time that Nav1.1 haploinsufficiency in excitatory neurons has an ameliorating effect on the pathology.
PMCID: PMC3820136  PMID: 23922229
17.  Functional up-regulation of Nav1.8 sodium channel in Aβ afferent fibers subjected to chronic peripheral inflammation 
Functional alterations in the properties of Aβ afferent fibers may account for the increased pain sensitivity observed under peripheral chronic inflammation. Among the voltage-gated sodium channels involved in the pathophysiology of pain, Nav1.8 has been shown to participate in the peripheral sensitization of nociceptors. However, to date, there is no evidence for a role of Nav1.8 in controlling Aβ-fiber excitability following persistent inflammation.
Distribution and expression of Nav1.8 in dorsal root ganglia and sciatic nerves were qualitatively or quantitatively assessed by immunohistochemical staining and by real time-polymerase chain reaction at different time points following complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) administration. Using a whole-cell patch-clamp configuration, we further determined both total INa and TTX-R Nav1.8 currents in large-soma dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons isolated from sham or CFA-treated rats. Finally, we analyzed the effects of ambroxol, a Nav1.8-preferring blocker on the electrophysiological properties of Nav1.8 currents and on the mechanical sensitivity and inflammation of the hind paw in CFA-treated rats.
Our findings revealed that Nav1.8 is up-regulated in NF200-positive large sensory neurons and is subsequently anterogradely transported from the DRG cell bodies along the axons toward the periphery after CFA-induced inflammation. We also demonstrated that both total INa and Nav1.8 peak current densities are enhanced in inflamed large myelinated Aβ-fiber neurons. Persistent inflammation leading to nociception also induced time-dependent changes in Aβ-fiber neuron excitability by shifting the voltage-dependent activation of Nav1.8 in the hyperpolarizing direction, thus decreasing the current threshold for triggering action potentials. Finally, we found that ambroxol significantly reduces the potentiation of Nav1.8 currents in Aβ-fiber neurons observed following intraplantar CFA injection and concomitantly blocks CFA-induced mechanical allodynia, suggesting that Nav1.8 regulation in Aβ-fibers contributes to inflammatory pain.
Collectively, these findings support a key role for Nav1.8 in controlling the excitability of Aβ-fibers and its potential contribution to the development of mechanical allodynia under persistent inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4007624  PMID: 24606981
Aβ-fibers; Allodynia; Complete Freund’s adjuvant; Electrophysiology; Sodium channel blocker
18.  Nav1.7 is the predominant sodium channel in rodent olfactory sensory neurons 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:32.
Voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7 is preferentially expressed in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and sympathetic neurons within the peripheral nervous system. Homozygous or compound heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in SCN9A, the gene which encodes Nav1.7, cause congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) accompanied by anosmia. Global knock-out of Nav1.7 in mice is neonatal lethal reportedly from starvation, suggesting anosmia. These findings led us to hypothesize that Nav1.7 is the main sodium channel in the peripheral olfactory sensory neurons (OSN, also known as olfactory receptor neurons).
We used multiplex PCR-restriction enzyme polymorphism, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry to determine the identity of sodium channels in rodent OSNs.
We show here that Nav1.7 is the predominant sodium channel transcript, with low abundance of other sodium channel transcripts, in olfactory epithelium from rat and mouse. Our in situ hybridization data show that Nav1.7 transcripts are present in rat OSNs. Immunostaining of Nav1.7 and Nav1.6 channels in rat shows a complementary accumulation pattern with Nav1.7 in peripheral presynaptic OSN axons, and Nav1.6 primarily in postsynaptic cells and their dendrites in the glomeruli of the olfactory bulb within the central nervous system.
Our data show that Nav1.7 is the dominant sodium channel in rat and mouse OSN, and may explain anosmia in Nav1.7 null mouse and patients with Nav1.7-related CIP.
PMCID: PMC3101130  PMID: 21569247
19.  RET Signaling is Required for Survival and Normal Function of Non-Peptidergic Nociceptors 
Small unmyelinated sensory neurons classified as nociceptors are divided into two subpopulations based on phenotypic differences including expression of neurotrophic factor receptors. Approximately half of unmyelinated nociceptors express the NGF receptor TrkA and half express the GDNF Family Ligand (GFL) receptor Ret. The function of NGF/TrkA signaling in the TrkA population of nociceptors has been extensively studied and NGF/TrkA signaling is a well established mediator of pain. The GFLs are analgesic in models of neuropathic pain emphasizing the importance of understanding the physiological function of GFL/Ret signaling in nociceptors. However, perinatal lethality of Ret-null mice has precluded the study of the physiological role of GFL/Ret signaling in the survival, maintenance and function of nociceptors in viable mice. We deleted Ret exclusively in nociceptors by crossing nociceptor-specific Nav1.8 Cre and Ret conditional mice to produce Ret-Nav1.8 conditional knock out (CKO) mice. Loss of Ret exclusively in nociceptors results in a reduction in nociceptor number and size indicating Ret signaling is important for the survival and trophic support of these cells. Ret-Nav1.8 CKO mice exhibit reduced epidermal innervation, but normal central projections. In addition, Ret-Nav1.8 CKO mice have increased sensitivity to cold and increased formalin-induced pain, demonstrating that Ret signaling modulates the function of nociceptors in vivo. Enhanced inflammation-induced pain may be mediated by decreased Prostatic Acid Phosphatase (PAP) as PAP levels are markedly reduced in Ret-Nav1.8 CKO mice. The results of this study identify the physiological role of endogenous Ret signaling in the survival and function of nociceptors.
PMCID: PMC2850282  PMID: 20237269
Ret; neurotrophic factor; GDNF; pain; inflammation; nociceptor
20.  Neurotrophin-3 significantly reduces sodium channel expression linked to neuropathic pain states 
Experimental neurology  2008;213(2):303-314.
Neuropathic pain resulting from chronic constriction injury (CCI) is critically linked to sensitization of peripheral nociceptors. Voltage gated sodium channels are major contributors to this state and their expression can be upregulated by nerve growth factor (NGF). We have previously demonstrated that neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) acts antagonistically to NGF in modulation of aspects of CCI-induced changes in trkA-associated nociceptor phenotype and thermal hyperalgesia. Thus, we hypothesized that exposure of neurons to increased levels of NT-3 would reduce expression of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 in DRG neurons subject to CCI. In adult male rats, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 mRNAs are expressed at high levels in predominantly small to medium size neurons. One week following CCI, there is reduced incidence of neurons expressing detectable Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 mRNA, but without a significant decline in mean level of neuronal expression, and similar findings observed immunohistochemically. There is also increased accumulation/redistribution of channel protein in the nerve most apparent proximal to the first constriction site. Intrathecal infusion of NT-3 significantly attenuates neuronal expression of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 mRNA contralateral and most notably, ipsilateral to CCI, with a similar impact on relative protein expression at the level of the neuron and constricted nerve. We also observe reduced expression of the common neurotrophin receptor p75 in response to CCI that is not reversed by NT-3 in small to medium sized neurons and may confer an enhanced ability of NT-3 to signal via trkA, as has been previously shown in other cell types. These findings are consistent with an analgesic role for NT-3.
PMCID: PMC2751854  PMID: 18601922
Nav1.8; Nav1.9; DRG; sciatic nerve; CCI; nociceptor; nerve growth factor
21.  The trafficking of NaV1.8 
Neuroscience Letters  2010;486(2-13):78-83.
Research highlights
▶ The β3 subunit masks the ER retention signal of NaV1.8 and release the channel from the ER. ▶ p11 directly binds to NaV1.8 and help its translocation to the plasma membrane. ▶ PDZD2 is responsible for the functional expression of NaV1.8 on the plasma membrane. ▶ Contactin KO mice exhibit a reduction of NaV1.8 along unmyelinated axons in the sciatic nerve. ▶ PKA activation increases the NaV1.8 density on the membrane through direct phosphorylation.
The α-subunit of tetrodotoxin-resistant voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.8 is selectively expressed in sensory neurons. It has been reported that NaV1.8 is involved in the transmission of nociceptive information from sensory neurons to the central nervous system in nociceptive [1] and neuropathic [24] pain conditions. Thus NaV1.8 has been a promising target to treat chronic pain. Here we discuss the recent advances in the study of trafficking mechanism of NaV1.8. These pieces of information are particularly important as such trafficking machinery could be new targets for painkillers.
PMCID: PMC2977848  PMID: 20816723
Sodium Channel; Sensory Neuron; Pain; Trafficking
22.  Bilateral downregulation of Nav1.8 in dorsal root ganglia of rats with bone cancer pain induced by inoculation with Walker 256 breast tumor cells 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:216.
Rapid and effective treatment of cancer-induced bone pain remains a clinical challenge and patients with bone metastasis are more likely to experience severe pain. The voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.8 plays a critical role in many aspects of nociceptor function. Therefore, we characterized a rat model of cancer pain and investigated the potential role of Nav1.8.
Adult female Wistar rats were used for the study. Cancer pain was induced by inoculation of Walker 256 breast carcinosarcoma cells into the tibia. After surgery, mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia and ambulation scores were evaluated to identify pain-related behavior. We used real-time RT-PCR to determine Nav1.8 mRNA expression in bilateral L4/L5 dorsal root ganglia (DRG) at 16-19 days after surgery. Western blotting and immunofluorescence were used to compare the expression and distribution of Nav1.8 in L4/L5 DRG between tumor-bearing and sham rats. Antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) against Nav1.8 were administered intrathecally at 14-16 days after surgery to knock down Nav1.8 protein expression and changes in pain-related behavior were observed.
Tumor-bearing rats exhibited mechanical hyperalgesia and ambulatory-evoked pain from day 7 after inoculation of Walker 256 cells. In the advanced stage of cancer pain (days 16-19 after surgery), normalized Nav1.8 mRNA levels assessed by real-time RT-PCR were significantly lower in ipsilateral L4/L5 DRG of tumor-bearing rats compared with the sham group. Western-blot showed that the total expression of Nav1.8 protein significantly decreased bilaterally in DRG of tumor-bearing rats. Furthermore, as revealed by immunofluorescence, only the expression of Nav1.8 protein in small neurons down regulated significantly in bilateral DRG of cancer pain rats. After administration of antisense ODNs against Nav1.8, Nav1.8 protein expression decreased significantly and tumor-bearing rats showed alleviated mechanical hyperalgesia and ambulatory-evoked pain.
These findings suggest that Nav1.8 plays a role in the development and maintenance of bone cancer pain.
PMCID: PMC2894792  PMID: 20482896
23.  Sodium channel expression in the ventral posterolateral nucleus of the thalamus after peripheral nerve injury 
Molecular Pain  2006;2:27.
Peripheral nerve injury is known to up-regulate the expression of rapidly-repriming Nav1.3 sodium channel within first-order dorsal root ganglion neurons and second-order dorsal horn nociceptive neurons, but it is not known if pain-processing neurons higher along the neuraxis also undergo changes in sodium channel expression. In this study, we hypothesized that after peripheral nerve injury, third-order neurons in the ventral posterolateral (VPL) nucleus of the thalamus undergo changes in expression of sodium channels. To test this hypothesis, adult male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve. Ten days after CCI, when allodynia and hyperalgesia were evident, in situ hybridization and immunocytochemical analysis revealed up-regulation of Nav1.3 mRNA, but no changes in expression of Nav1.1, Nav1.2, or Nav1.6 in VPL neurons, and unit recordings demonstrated increased background firing, which persisted after spinal cord transection, and evoked hyperresponsiveness to peripheral stimuli. These results demonstrate that injury to the peripheral nervous system induces alterations in sodium channel expression within higher-order VPL neurons, and suggest that misexpression of the Nav1.3 sodium channel increases the excitability of VPL neurons injury, contributing to neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC1563449  PMID: 16916452
24.  Intra- and interfamily phenotypic diversity in pain syndromes associated with a gain-of-function variant of NaV1.7 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:92.
Sodium channel NaV1.7 is preferentially expressed within dorsal root ganglia (DRG), trigeminal ganglia and sympathetic ganglion neurons and their fine-diamter axons, where it acts as a threshold channel, amplifying stimuli such as generator potentials in nociceptors. Gain-of-function mutations and variants (single amino acid substitutions) of NaV1.7 have been linked to three pain syndromes: Inherited Erythromelalgia (IEM), Paroxysmal Extreme Pain Disorder (PEPD), and Small Fiber Neuropathy (SFN). IEM is characterized clinically by burning pain and redness that is usually focused on the distal extremities, precipitated by mild warmth and relieved by cooling, and is caused by mutations that hyperpolarize activation, slow deactivation, and enhance the channel ramp response. PEPD is characterized by perirectal, periocular or perimandibular pain, often triggered by defecation or lower body stimulation, and is caused by mutations that severely impair fast-inactivation. SFN presents a clinical picture dominated by neuropathic pain and autonomic symptoms; gain-of-function variants have been reported to be present in approximately 30% of patients with biopsy-confirmed idiopathic SFN, and functional testing has shown altered fast-inactivation, slow-inactivation or resurgent current. In this paper we describe three patients who house the NaV1.7/I228M variant.
We have used clinical assessment of patients, quantitative sensory testing and skin biopsy to study these patients, including two siblings in one family, in whom genomic screening demonstrated the I228M NaV1.7 variant. Electrophysiology (voltage-clamp and current-clamp) was used to test functional effects of the variant channel.
We report three different clinical presentations of the I228M NaV1.7 variant: presentation with severe facial pain, presentation with distal (feet, hands) pain, and presentation with scalp discomfort in three patients housing this NaV1.7 variant, two of which are from a single family. We also demonstrate that the NaV1.7/I228M variant impairs slow-inactivation, and produces hyperexcitability in both trigeminal ganglion and DRG neurons.
Our results demonstrate intra- and interfamily phenotypic diversity in pain syndromes produced by a gain-of-function variant of NaV1.7.
PMCID: PMC3248882  PMID: 22136189
25.  Regulation of membrane excitability: a convergence on voltage-gated sodium conductance 
Molecular Neurobiology  2014;51:57-67.
The voltage-gated sodium channel (Nav) plays a key role in regulation of neuronal excitability. Aberrant regulation of Nav expression and/or function can result in an imbalance in neuronal activity which can progress to epilepsy. Regulation of Nav activity is achieved by coordination of a multitude of mechanisms including RNA alternative splicing and translational repression. Understanding of these regulatory mechanisms is complicated by extensive genetic redundancy: the mammalian genome encodes ten Navs. By contrast, the genome of the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, contains just one Nav homologue, encoded by paralytic (DmNav). Analysis of splicing in DmNav shows variants exhibit distinct gating properties including varying magnitudes of persistent sodium current (INaP). Splicing by Pasilla, an identified RNA splicing factor, alters INaP magnitude as part of an activity-dependent mechanism. Enhanced INaP promotes membrane hyperexcitability that is associated with seizure-like behaviour in Drosophila. Nova-2, a mammalian Pasilla homologue, has also been linked to splicing of Navs and, moreover, mouse gene knockouts display seizure-like behaviour.
Expression level of Navs is also regulated through a mechanism of translational repression in both flies and mammals. The translational repressor Pumilio (Pum) can bind to Nav transcripts and repress the normal process of translation, thus regulating sodium current (INa) density in neurons. Pum2-deficient mice exhibit spontaneous EEG abnormalities. Taken together, aberrant regulation of Nav function and/or expression is often epileptogenic. As such, a better understanding of regulation of membrane excitability through RNA alternative splicing and translational repression of Navs should provide new leads to treat epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC4309913  PMID: 24677068
Excitability; Drosophila; Epilepsy; Paralytic; Splicing; Translational repression

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