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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.  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
3.  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
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.  Nav 1.8-null mice show stimulus-dependent deficits in spinal neuronal activity 
Molecular Pain  2006;2:5.
The voltage gated sodium channel Nav 1.8 has a highly restricted expression pattern to predominantly nociceptive peripheral sensory neurones. Behaviourally Nav 1.8-null mice show an increased acute pain threshold to noxious mechanical pressure and also deficits in inflammatory and visceral, but not neuropathic pain. Here we have made in vivo electrophysiology recordings of dorsal horn neurones in intact anaesthetised Nav 1.8-null mice, in response to a wide range of stimuli to further the understanding of the functional roles of Nav 1.8 in pain transmission from the periphery to the spinal cord.
Nav 1.8-null mice showed marked deficits in the coding by dorsal horn neurones to mechanical, but not thermal, -evoked responses over the non-noxious and noxious range compared to littermate controls. Additionally, responses evoked to other stimulus modalities were also significantly reduced in Nav 1.8-null mice where the reduction observed to pinch > brush. The occurrence of ongoing spontaneous neuronal activity was significantly less in mice lacking Nav 1.8 compared to control. No difference was observed between groups in the evoked activity to electrical activity of the peripheral receptive field.
This study demonstrates that deletion of the sodium channel Nav 1.8 results in stimulus-dependent deficits in the dorsal horn neuronal coding to mechanical, but not thermal stimuli applied to the neuronal peripheral receptive field. This implies that Nav 1.8 is either responsible for, or associated with proteins involved in mechanosensation.
PMCID: PMC1403745  PMID: 16478543
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Loss-of-function mutations in sodium channel Nav1.7 cause anosmia 
Nature  2011;472(7342):186-190.
Loss of function of the gene SCN9A, encoding the voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7, causes a congenital inability to experience pain in humans. Here we show that Nav1.7 is not only necessary for pain sensation but is also an essential requirement for odour perception in both mice and humans. We examined human patients with loss-of-function mutations in SCN9A and show that they are unable to sense odours. To establish the essential role of Nav1.7 in odour perception, we generated conditional null mice in which Nav1.7 was removed from all olfactory sensory neurons. In the absence of Nav1.7, these neurons still produce odour-evoked action potentials but fail to initiate synaptic signalling from their axon terminals at the first synapse in the olfactory system. The mutant mice no longer display vital, odour-guided behaviours such as innate odour recognition and avoidance, short-term odour learning, and maternal pup retrieval. Our study creates a mouse model of congenital general anosmia and provides new strategies to explore the genetic basis of the human sense of smell.
PMCID: PMC3674497  PMID: 21441906
11.  Sodium channel Nav1.7 immunoreactivity in painful human dental pulp and burning mouth syndrome 
BMC Neuroscience  2010;11:71.
Voltage gated sodium channels Nav1.7 are involved in nociceptor nerve action potentials and are known to affect pain sensitivity in clinical genetic disorders.
Aims and Objectives
To study Nav1.7 levels in dental pulpitis pain, an inflammatory condition, and burning mouth syndrome (BMS), considered a neuropathic orofacial pain disorder.
Two groups of patients were recruited for this study. One group consisted of patients with dental pulpitis pain (n = 5) and controls (n = 12), and the other patients with BMS (n = 7) and controls (n = 10). BMS patients were diagnosed according to the International Association for the Study of Pain criteria; a pain history was collected, including the visual analogue scale (VAS). Immunohistochemistry with visual intensity and computer image analysis were used to evaluate levels of Nav1.7 in dental pulp tissue samples from the dental pulpitis group, and tongue biopsies from the BMS group.
There was a significantly increased visual intensity score for Nav1.7 in nerve fibres in the painful dental pulp specimens, compared to controls. Image analysis showed a trend for an increase of the Nav1.7 immunoreactive % area in the painful pulp group, but this was not statistically significant. When expressed as a ratio of the neurofilament % area, there was a strong trend for an increase of Nav1.7 in the painful pulp group. Nav1.7 immunoreactive fibres were seen in abundance in the sub-mucosal layer of tongue biopsies, with no significant difference between BMS and controls.
Nav1.7 sodium channel may play a significant role in inflammatory dental pain. Clinical trials with selective Nav1.7 channel blockers should prioritise dental pulp pain rather than BMS.
PMCID: PMC2890014  PMID: 20529324
12.  Ranolazine Attenuates Behavioral Signs of Neuropathic Pain 
Behavioural pharmacology  2009;20(8):755-758.
Ranolazine modulates the cardiac voltage-gated sodium channel (Nav 1.5) and is FDA-approved for the treatment of ischemic heart disease. Ranolazine also targets neuronal (Nav 1.7, 1.8) isoforms that are implicated in neuropathic pain. Therefore, we determined the analgesic efficacy of ranolazine in a pre-clinical animal model of neuropathic pain. Both i.p. and oral administration of ranolazine dose-dependently inhibited the mechanical and cold allodynia associated with spared nerve injury, without producing ataxia or other behavioral side effects. These data warrant clinical investigation of the potential use of ranolazine in the treatment of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC2975014  PMID: 19773645
spared nerve injury; hyperalgesia; allodynia; rat; Nav 1.7; Nav 1.8
13.  Sodium channel Nav1.8 immunoreactivity in painful human dental pulp 
BMC Oral Health  2005;5:5.
The tetrodotoxin-resistant voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.8 (SNS1/PN3) is expressed by nociceptors and may play a role in pain states.
Using specific antibodies for immunohistochemistry, we studied Nav1.8 – immunoreactivity in human dental pulp in relation to the neuronal marker neurofilament. Human tooth pulp was extracted from teeth harvested from a total of twenty-two patients (fourteen without dental pain, eight patients with dental pain).
Fibres immunoreactive for Nav1.8, were significantly increased on image analysis in the painful group: median (range) Nav1.8 to Neurofilament % area ratio, non-painful 0.059 (0.006–0.24), painful 0.265 (0.13–0.5), P = 0.0019.
Nav1.8 sodium channels may thus represent a therapeutic target in trigeminal nerve pain states.
PMCID: PMC1183220  PMID: 16001984
14.  Nav1.9 Channel Contributes to Mechanical and Heat Pain Hypersensitivity Induced by Subacute and Chronic Inflammation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23083.
Inflammation is known to be responsible for the sensitization of peripheral sensory neurons, leading to spontaneous pain and invalidating pain hypersensitivity. Given its role in regulating neuronal excitability, the voltage-gated Nav1.9 channel is a potential target for the treatment of pathological pain, but its implication in inflammatory pain is yet not fully described. In the present study, we examined the role of the Nav1.9 channel in acute, subacute and chronic inflammatory pain using Nav1.9-null mice and Nav1.9 knock-down rats. In mice we found that, although the Nav1.9 channel does not contribute to basal pain thresholds, it plays an important role in heat pain hypersensitivity induced by subacute paw inflammation (intraplantar carrageenan) and chronic ankle inflammation (complete Freund's adjuvant-induced monoarthritis). We showed for the first time that Nav1.9 also contributes to mechanical hypersensitivity in both models, as assessed using von Frey and dynamic weight bearing tests. Consistently, antisense-based Nav1.9 gene silencing in rats reduced carrageenan-induced heat and mechanical pain hypersensitivity. While no changes in Nav1.9 mRNA levels were detected in dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) during subacute and chronic inflammation, a significant increase in Nav1.9 immunoreactivity was observed in ipsilateral DRGs 24 hours following carrageenan injection. This was correlated with an increase in Nav1.9 immunolabeling in nerve fibers surrounding the inflamed area. No change in Nav1.9 current density could be detected in the soma of retrolabeled DRG neurons innervating inflamed tissues, suggesting that newly produced channels may be non-functional at this level and rather contribute to the observed increase in axonal transport. Our results provide evidence that Nav1.9 plays a crucial role in the generation of heat and mechanical pain hypersensitivity, both in subacute and chronic inflammatory pain models, and bring new elements for the understanding of its regulation in those models.
PMCID: PMC3155549  PMID: 21857998
15.  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
16.  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
17.  Electroacupuncture Reduces Carrageenan- and CFA-Induced Inflammatory Pain Accompanied by Changing the Expression of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8, rather than Nav1.9, in Mice Dorsal Root Ganglia 
Several voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) from nociceptive nerve fibers have been identified as important effectors in pain signaling. The objective of this study is to investigate the electroacupuncture (EA) analgesia mechanism by changing the expression of Navs in mice dorsal root ganglia (DRG). We injected carrageenan and complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) into the mice plantar surface of the hind paw to induce inflammation and examined the antinociception effect of EA at the Zusanli (ST36) acupoint at 2 Hz low frequency. Mechanical hyperalgesia was evaluated by using electronic von Frey filaments, and thermal hyperalgesia was assessed using Hargreaves' test. Furthermore, we observed the expression and quality of Navs in DRG neurons. Our results showed that EA reduced mechanical and thermal pain in inflammatory animal model. The expression of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 was increased after 4 days of carrageenan- and CFA-elicited inflammatory pain and further attenuated by 2 Hz EA stimulation. The attenuation cannot be observed in Nav1.9 sodium channels. We demonstrated that EA at Zusanli (ST36) acupoint at 2 Hz low-frequency stimulation attenuated inflammatory pain accompanied by decreasing the expression of Nav1.7 and 1.8, rather than Nav1.9, sodium channels in peripheral DRG neurons.
PMCID: PMC3615619  PMID: 23573123
18.  Animal Toxins Can Alter the Function of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 
Toxins  2012;4(8):620-632.
Human voltage-activated sodium (Nav) channels are adept at rapidly transmitting electrical signals across long distances in various excitable tissues. As such, they are amongst the most widely targeted ion channels by drugs and animal toxins. Of the nine isoforms, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are preferentially expressed in DRG neurons where they are thought to play an important role in pain signaling. Although the functional properties of Nav1.8 have been relatively well characterized, difficulties with expressing Nav1.9 in established heterologous systems limit our understanding of the gating properties and toxin pharmacology of this particular isoform. This review summarizes our current knowledge of the role of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 in pain perception and elaborates on the approaches used to identify molecules capable of influencing their function.
PMCID: PMC3446747  PMID: 23012651
Nav1.8; Nav1.9; pain; animal toxins; voltage sensor; voltage-activated sodium channel
Neuroscience  2008;155(3):797-808.
The expression of voltage-gated sodium channels is regulated at multiple levels, and in this study we addressed the potential for alternative splicing of the Nav1.2, Nav1.3, Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 mRNAs. We isolated novel mRNA isoforms of Nav1.2 and Nav1.3 from adult mouse and rat dorsal root ganglia (DRG), Nav1.3 and Nav1.7 from adult mouse brain, and Nav1.7 from neonatal rat brain. These alternatively spliced isoforms introduce an additional exon (Nav1.2 exon 17A and topologically equivalent Nav1.7 exon 16A) or exon pair (Nav1.3 exons 17A and 17B) that contain an in-frame stop codon and result in predicted two-domain, truncated proteins. The mouse and rat orthologous exon sequences are highly conserved (94-100% identities), as are the paralogous Nav1.2 and Nav1.3 exons (93% identity in mouse) to which the Nav1.7 exon has only 60% identity. Previously, Nav1.3 mRNA has been shown to be upregulated in rat DRG following peripheral nerve injury, unlike the downregulation of all other sodium channel transcripts. Here we show that the expression of Nav1.3 mRNA containing exons 17A and 17B is unchanged in mouse following peripheral nerve injury (axotomy), whereas total Nav1.3 mRNA expression is upregulated by 33% (P=0.003), suggesting differential regulation of the alternatively spliced transcripts. The alternatively spliced rodent exon sequences are highly conserved in both the human and chicken genomes, with 77-89% and 72-76% identities to mouse, respectively. The widespread conservation of these sequences strongly suggests an additional level of regulation in the expression of these channels, that is also tissue-specific.
PMCID: PMC2726981  PMID: 18675520
DRG; brain; alternative splicing; Scn2a; Scn3a; Scn9a
20.  Regulation of the Spontaneous Augmentation of NaV1.9 in Mouse Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons: Effect of PKA and PKC Pathways 
Marine Drugs  2010;8(3):728-740.
Sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglion express two kinds of tetrodotoxin resistant (TTX-R) isoforms of voltage-gated sodium channels, NaV1.8 and NaV1.9. These isoforms play key roles in the pathophysiology of chronic pain. Of special interest is NaV1.9: our previous studies revealed a unique property of the NaV1.9 current, i.e., the NaV1.9 current shows a gradual and notable up-regulation of the peak amplitude during recording (“spontaneous augmentation of NaV1.9”). However, the mechanism underlying the spontaneous augmentation of NaV1.9 is still unclear. In this study, we examined the effects of protein kinases A and C (PKA and PKC), on the spontaneous augmentation of NaV1.9. The spontaneous augmentation of the NaV1.9 current was significantly suppressed by activation of PKA, whereas activation of PKA did not affect the voltage dependence of inactivation for the NaV1.9 current. On the contrary, the finding that activation of PKC can affect the voltage dependence of inactivation for NaV1.9 in the perforated patch recordings, where the augmentation does not occur, suggests that the effects of PMA are independent of the augmentation process. These results indicate that the spontaneous augmentation of NaV1.9 was regulated directly by PKA, and indirectly by PKC.
PMCID: PMC2857352  PMID: 20411123
Na+ channel; tetrodotoxin; dorsal root ganglion; patch clamp; PKA; PKC
21.  Specificity, affinity and efficacy of iota-conotoxin RXIA, an agonist of voltage-gated sodium channels NaV1.2, 1.6 and 1.7 
Biochemical pharmacology  2008;75(12):2334-2344.
The excitotoxic conopeptide ι-RXIA induces repetitive action potentials in frog motor axons and seizures upon intracranial injection into mice. We recently discovered that ι-RXIA shifts the voltage-dependence of activation of voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.6 to a more hyperpolarized level. Here, we performed voltage-clamp experiments to examine its activity against rodent NaV1.1 through NaV1.7 co-expressed with the β1 subunit in Xenopus oocytes and NaV1.8 in dissociated mouse DRG neurons. The order of sensitivity to ι-RXIA was NaV1.6 > 1.2 > 1.7, and the remaining subtypes were insensitive. The time course of ι-RXIA-activity on NaV1.6 during exposure to different peptide concentrations were well fit by single-exponential curves that provided kobs. The plot of kobs versus [ι-RXIA] was linear, consistent with a bimolecular reaction with a Kd of ~3 μM, close to the steady-state EC50 of ~2 μM. ι-RXIA has an unusual residue, D-Phe, and the analog with an L-Phe instead, ι-RXIA[L-Phe44], had a two-fold lower affinity and two-fold faster off-rate than ι-RXIA on NaV1.6 and furthermore was inactive on NaV1.2. ι-RXIA induced repetitive action potentials in mouse sciatic nerve with conduction velocities of both A- and C-fibers, consistent with the presence of NaV1.6 at nodes of Ranvier as well as in unmyelinated axons. Sixteen peptides homologous to ι-RXIA have been identified from a single species of Conus, so these peptides represent a rich family of novel sodium channel-targeting ligands.
PMCID: PMC2700742  PMID: 18486102
channel-activation; conopeptide; excitotoxin; iota-conotoxin RXIA; neurotoxin; voltage-gated sodium channel
22.  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
23.  PKCε phosphorylation of the sodium channel NaV1.8 increases channel function and produces mechanical hyperalgesia in mice  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(4):1306-1315.
Mechanical hyperalgesia is a common and potentially disabling complication of many inflammatory and neuropathic conditions. Activation of the enzyme PKCε in primary afferent nociceptors is a major mechanism that underlies mechanical hyperalgesia, but the PKCε substrates involved downstream are not known. Here, we report that in a proteomic screen we identified the NaV1.8 sodium channel, which is selectively expressed in nociceptors, as a PKCε substrate. PKCε-mediated phosphorylation increased NaV1.8 currents, lowered the threshold voltage for activation, and produced a depolarizing shift in inactivation in wild-type — but not in PKCε-null — sensory neurons. PKCε phosphorylated NaV1.8 at S1452, and alanine substitution at this site blocked PKCε modulation of channel properties. Moreover, a specific PKCε activator peptide, ψεRACK, produced mechanical hyperalgesia in wild-type mice but not in Scn10a–/– mice, which lack NaV1.8 channels. These studies demonstrate that NaV1.8 is an important, direct substrate of PKCε that mediates PKCε-dependent mechanical hyperalgesia.
PMCID: PMC3315445  PMID: 22426212
24.  Increased Expression of Sodium Channel Subunit Nav1.1 in the Injured Dorsal Root Ganglion after Peripheral Nerve Injury 
The mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain induction are very complex but might involve abnormal spontaneous activity in the sensory dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Voltage-gated sodium channels in the DRG are essential for the genesis of abnormal spontaneous neuronal activity. In the present study, we examined the changes in expression of the voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.1 in the DRG after peripheral nerve injury. Western blot analysis showed that the level of Nav1.1 protein in the ipsilateral L5 DRG was significantly increased on days 3 and 7 after fifth lumbar spinal nerve ligation. Immunohistochemical study further confirmed a marked increase in the percentage of Nav1.1-positive cells in the ipsilateral DRG on day 3 after fifth lumbar spinal nerve ligation. Similarly, on day 7 after sciatic nerve axotomy, the amount of Nav1.1 protein and the percentage of Nav1.1-positive cells in the ipsilateral L5 DRG were also significantly increased. Our results suggest that an early increase in DRG Nav1.1 expression after peripheral nerve injury might be involved in the induction of neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3140573  PMID: 21714116
Nav1.1; sodium channel; neuropathic pain; dorsal root ganglion; rat
25.  Mutations in sodium-channel gene SCN9A cause a spectrum of human genetic pain disorders  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(12):3603-3609.
The voltage-gated sodium-channel type IX α subunit, known as Nav1.7 and encoded by the gene SCN9A, is located in peripheral neurons and plays an important role in action potential production in these cells. Recent genetic studies have identified Nav1.7 dysfunction in three different human pain disorders. Gain-of-function missense mutations in Nav1.7 have been shown to cause primary erythermalgia and paroxysmal extreme pain disorder, while nonsense mutations in Nav1.7 result in loss of Nav1.7 function and a condition known as channelopathy-associated insensitivity to pain, a rare disorder in which affected individuals are unable to feel physical pain. This review highlights these recent developments and discusses the critical role of Nav1.7 in pain sensation in humans.
PMCID: PMC2096434  PMID: 18060017

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