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1.  Site-3 Toxins and Cardiac Sodium Channels 
Site-3 toxins are small polypeptide venoms from scorpions, sea anemones, and spiders that bind with a high specificity to the extracellular surface of voltage-gated Na channels. After binding to a site near the S4 segment in domain IV the toxin causes disruption of the normal fast inactivation transition resulting in a marked prolongation of the action potentials of excitable tissues including those of cardiac and skeletal muscle and nerve. In this review we discuss the specific binding interactions between residues of the toxin and those of the Na channel, and the specific modification of Na channel kinetic behavior leading to a change in fast inactivation focusing on interactions deduced primarily from the study of sea anemone toxins and the cardiac Na channel (NaV1.5). We also illustrate the usefulness of site-3 toxins in the study of altered Na channel behavior by drug-modification.
PMCID: PMC1852437  PMID: 17092528
2.  Mechanism of μ-Conotoxin PIIIA Binding to the Voltage-Gated Na+ Channel NaV1.4 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93267.
Several subtypes of voltage-gated Na+ (NaV) channels are important targets for pain management. μ-Conotoxins isolated from venoms of cone snails are potent and specific blockers of different NaV channel isoforms. The inhibitory effect of μ-conotoxins on NaV channels has been examined extensively, but the mechanism of toxin specificity has not been understood in detail. Here the known structure of μ-conotoxin PIIIA and a model of the skeletal muscle channel NaV1.4 are used to elucidate elements that contribute to the structural basis of μ-conotoxin binding and specificity. The model of NaV1.4 is constructed based on the crystal structure of the bacterial NaV channel, NaVAb. Six different binding modes, in which the side chain of each of the basic residues carried by the toxin protrudes into the selectivity filter of NaV1.4, are examined in atomic detail using molecular dynamics simulations with explicit solvent. The dissociation constants (Kd) computed for two selected binding modes in which Lys9 or Arg14 from the toxin protrudes into the filter of the channel are within 2 fold; both values in close proximity to those determined from dose response data for the block of NaV currents. To explore the mechanism of PIIIA specificity, a double mutant of NaV1.4 mimicking NaV channels resistant to μ-conotoxins and tetrodotoxin is constructed and the binding of PIIIA to this mutant channel examined. The double mutation causes the affinity of PIIIA to reduce by two orders of magnitude.
PMCID: PMC3968119  PMID: 24676211
3.  Use-dependent block of the voltage-gated Na+ channel by tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin: Effect of pore mutations that change ionic selectivity 
The Journal of General Physiology  2012;140(4):435-454.
Voltage-gated Na+ channels (NaV channels) are specifically blocked by guanidinium toxins such as tetrodotoxin (TTX) and saxitoxin (STX) with nanomolar to micromolar affinity depending on key amino acid substitutions in the outer vestibule of the channel that vary with NaV gene isoforms. All NaV channels that have been studied exhibit a use-dependent enhancement of TTX/STX affinity when the channel is stimulated with brief repetitive voltage depolarizations from a hyperpolarized starting voltage. Two models have been proposed to explain the mechanism of TTX/STX use dependence: a conformational mechanism and a trapped ion mechanism. In this study, we used selectivity filter mutations (K1237R, K1237A, and K1237H) of the rat muscle NaV1.4 channel that are known to alter ionic selectivity and Ca2+ permeability to test the trapped ion mechanism, which attributes use-dependent enhancement of toxin affinity to electrostatic repulsion between the bound toxin and Ca2+ or Na+ ions trapped inside the channel vestibule in the closed state. Our results indicate that TTX/STX use dependence is not relieved by mutations that enhance Ca2+ permeability, suggesting that ion–toxin repulsion is not the primary factor that determines use dependence. Evidence now favors the idea that TTX/STX use dependence arises from conformational coupling of the voltage sensor domain or domains with residues in the toxin-binding site that are also involved in slow inactivation.
PMCID: PMC3457692  PMID: 23008436
4.  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
5.  Isoflurane Inhibits the Tetrodotoxin-resistant Voltagegated Sodium Channel Nav1.8 
Anesthesiology  2009;111(3):591-599.
Voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav) mediate neuronal action potentials. Tetrodotoxin inhibits all Nav isoforms, but Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are relatively tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-r) compared to other isoforms. Nav1.8 is highly expressed in dorsal root ganglion neurons and is functionally linked to nociception, but the sensitivity of TTX-r isoforms to inhaled anesthetics is unclear.
The sensitivities of heterologously expressed rat TTX-r Nav1.8 and endogenous tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-s) Nav to the prototypic inhaled anesthetic isoflurane were tested in mammalian ND7/23 cells using patch-clamp electrophysiology.
From a holding potential of −70 mV, isoflurane (0.53±0.06 mM, ~1.8 MAC at 24°C) reduced normalized peak Na+ current (INa) of Nav1.8 to 0.55±0.03 and of endogenous TTX-s Nav to 0.56±0.06. Isoflurane minimally inhibited INa from a holding potential of −140 mV. Isoflurane did not affect voltage-dependence of activation, but significantly shifted voltage-dependence of steady-state inactivation by −6 mV for Nav1.8 and by −7 mV for TTX-s Nav. IC50 values for inhibition of peak INa were 0.67±0.06 mM for Nav1.8 and 0.66±0.09 mM for TTX-s Nav; significant inhibition occurred at clinically relevant concentrations as low as 0.58 MAC. Isoflurane produced use-dependent block of Nav1.8; at a stimulation frequency of 10 Hz, 0.56±0.08 mM isoflurane reduced INa to 0.64±0.01 vs. 0.78±0.01 for control.
Isoflurane inhibited the tetrodotoxin-resistant isoform Nav1.8 with potency comparable to that for endogenous tetrodotoxin-sensitive Nav isoforms, indicating that sensitivity to inhaled anesthetics is conserved across diverse Nav family members. Block of Nav1.8 in dorsal root ganglion neurons could contribute to the effects of inhaled anesthetics on peripheral nociceptive mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2756082  PMID: 19672182
6.  Effects of (−)-Gallocatechin-3-Gallate on Tetrodotoxin-Resistant Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels in Rat Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons 
The (−)-gallocatechin-3-gallate (GCG) concentration in some tea beverages can account for as much as 50% of the total catechins. It has been shown that catechins have analgesic properties. Voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav) mediate neuronal action potentials. Tetrodotoxin inhibits all Nav isoforms, but Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are relatively tetrodotoxin-resistant compared to other isoforms and functionally linked to nociception. In this study, the effects of GCG on tetrodotoxin-resistant Na+ currents were investigated in rat primary cultures of dorsal root ganglion neurons via the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. We found that 1 μM GCG reduced the amplitudes of peak current density of tetrodotoxin-resistant Na+ currents significantly. Furthermore, the inhibition was accompanied by a depolarizing shift of the activation voltage and a hyperpolarizing shift of steady-state inactivation voltage. The percentage block of GCG (1 μM) on tetrodotoxin-resistant Na+ current was 45.1% ± 1.1% in 10 min. In addition, GCG did not produce frequency-dependent block of tetrodotoxin-resistant Na+ currents at stimulation frequencies of 1 Hz, 2 Hz and 5 Hz. On the basis of these findings, we propose that GCG may be a potential analgesic agent.
PMCID: PMC3676812  PMID: 23652835
catechins; (−)-gallocatechin-3-gallate; Na+ channel; dorsal root ganglion; tetrodotoxin-resistant
7.  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
8.  Sea anemone venom as a source of insecticidal peptides acting on voltage-gated Na+ channels 
Sea anemones produce a myriad of toxic peptides and proteins of which a large group acts on voltage-gated Na+ channels. However, in comparison to other organisms, their venoms and toxins are poorly studied. Most of the known voltage-gated Na+ channel toxins isolated from sea anemone venoms act on neurotoxin receptor site 3 and inhibit the inactivation of these channels. Furthermore, it seems that most of these toxins have a distinct preference for crustaceans. Given the close evolutionary relationship between crustaceans and insects, it is not surprising that sea anemone toxins also profoundly affect insect voltage-gated Na+ channels, which constitutes the scope of this review. For this reason, these peptides can be considered as insecticidal lead compounds in the development of insecticides.
PMCID: PMC1868498  PMID: 17224168
9.  Targeting sodium channel voltage sensors with spider toxins 
Voltage-activated sodium (Nav) channels are essential in generating and propagating nerve impulses, placing them amongst the most widely targeted ion channels by toxins from venomous organisms. An increasing number of spider toxins have been shown to interfere with the voltage-driven activation process of mammalian Nav channels, possibly by interacting with one or more of their voltage sensors. This review focuses on our existing knowledge of the mechanism by which spider toxins affect Nav channel gating and the possible applications of these toxins in the drug discovery process.
PMCID: PMC2847040  PMID: 20097434
10.  Deconstructing voltage sensor function and pharmacology in sodium channels 
Nature  2008;456(7219):202-208.
Voltage-activated sodium (Nav) channels are crucial for the generation and propagation of nerve impulses, and as such are amongst the most widely targeted ion channels by toxins and drugs. The four voltage sensors in Nav channels have distinct amino acid sequences, raising fundamental questions about their relative contributions to the function and pharmacology of the channel. Here we use four-fold symmetric voltage-activated potassium (Kv) channels as reporters to examine the contributions of individual Nav channel S3b-S4 paddle motifs to the kinetics of voltage sensor activation and to forming toxin receptors. Our results uncover binding sites for toxins from tarantula and scorpion venom on each of the four paddle motifs in Nav channels and reveal how paddle-specific interactions can be used to reshape Nav channel activity. One paddle motif is unique in that it slows voltage sensor activation and toxins selectively targeting this motif impede Nav channel inactivation. This reporter approach and the principles that emerge will be useful in developing new drugs for treating pain and Nav channelopathies.
PMCID: PMC2587061  PMID: 19005548
11.  Expression of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel Nav1.8 in Human Prostate Cancer is Associated with High Histological Grade 
Journal of clinical & experimental oncology  2012;1(2):10.4172/2324-9110.1000102.
Voltage-gated sodium (Nav) channels are required for impulse conductance in excitable tissues. Navs have been linked to human cancers, including prostate. The expression and distribution of Nav isoforms (Nav1.1-Nav1.9) in human prostate cancer are not well established. Here, we evaluated the expression of these isoforms and investigated the expression of Nav1.8 in human prostate cancer tissues. Nav1.8 was highly expressed in all examined cells. Expression of Nav1.1, Nav1.2, and Nav1.9 were high in DU-145, PC-3 and PC-3M cells compared to LNCaP (hormone-dependent), C4-2, C4-2B, and CWR22Rv-1 cells. Nav1.5 and Nav1.6 were expressed in all cells examined. Nav1.7 expression was absent in PC-3M and CWR22Rv-1, but expressed in the other cells examined. Immunohistochemistry revealed intensive Nav1.8 staining correlated with more advanced pathologic stage of disease. Increased intensity of nuclear Nav1.8 correlated with increased Gleason grade. Our results revealed that Nav1.8 is universally expressed in human prostate cancer cells. Nav1.8 expression statistically correlated with pathologic stage (P=0.04) and Gleason score (P=0.01) of human prostate tissue specimens. The aberrant nuclear localization of Nav1.8 with advanced prostate cancer tissues warrant further investigation into use of Nav1.8 as a potential biomarker to differentiate between early and advanced disease.
PMCID: PMC3807742  PMID: 24163825
Voltage-gated sodium channel; Prostate cancer; Prostate biomarker; Gleason score
12.  Transcriptional Expression of Voltage-gated Na+ and Voltage-independent K+ Channels in the Developing Rat Superficial Dorsal Horn 
Neuroscience  2012;231:305-314.
Neurons within the superficial dorsal horn (SDH) of the rodent spinal cord exhibit distinct firing properties during early life. While this may reflect a unique combination of voltage-gated Na+ (Nav) and voltage-independent (i.e. “leak”) K+ channels which strongly influence neuronal excitability across the CNS, surprisingly little is known about which genes encoding for Nav and leak K+ channels are expressed within developing spinal pain circuits. The goal of the present study was therefore to characterize the transcriptional expression of these channels within the rat SDH at postnatal days (P)3, 10, 21 or adulthood using quantitative PCR (qPCR). The results demonstrate that Nav isoforms are developmentally regulated at the mRNA level in a subtype-specific manner, as Nav1.2 and Nav1.3 decreased significantly from P3 to adulthood, while Nav1.1 was up-regulated during this period. The data also indicate selective, age-dependent changes in the mRNA expression of two-pore domain (K2P) K+ channels, as TASK-1 (KCNK3) and TASK-3 (KCNK9) were down-regulated during postnatal development in the absence of any changes in the TWIK isoforms examined (KCNK1 and KCNK6). In addition, a developmental shift occurred within the TREK subfamily due to decreased TREK-2 (KCNK10) mRNA within the mature SDH. Meanwhile, G-protein-coupled inward rectifying K+ channels (Kir3.1 and Kir3.2) were expressed in the SDH at mature levels from birth. Overall, the results suggest that the transcription of ion channel genes occurs in a highly age-dependent manner within the SDH, raising the possibility that manipulating the expression or function of ion channels which are preferentially expressed within immature nociceptive networks could yield novel approaches to relieving pain in infants and children.
PMCID: PMC3563431  PMID: 23219908
spinal cord; two-pore-domain K+ channels; quantitative PCR; neonatal; development; sodium channel
13.  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
14.  Biochemical and Electrophysiological Characterization of Two Sea Anemone Type 1 Potassium Toxins from a Geographically Distant Population of Bunodosoma caissarum 
Marine Drugs  2013;11(3):655-679.
Sea anemone (Cnidaria, Anthozoa) venom is an important source of bioactive compounds used as tools to study the pharmacology and structure-function of voltage-gated K+ channels (KV). These neurotoxins can be divided into four different types, according to their structure and mode of action. In this work, for the first time, two toxins were purified from the venom of Bunodosoma caissarum population from Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, Brazil. Sequence alignment and phylogenetic analysis reveals that BcsTx1 and BcsTx2 are the newest members of the sea anemone type 1 potassium channel toxins. Their functional characterization was performed by means of a wide electrophysiological screening on 12 different subtypes of KV channels (KV1.1–KV1.6; KV2.1; KV3.1; KV4.2; KV4.3; hERG and Shaker IR). BcsTx1 shows a high affinity for rKv1.2 over rKv1.6, hKv1.3, Shaker IR and rKv1.1, while Bcstx2 potently blocked rKv1.6 over hKv1.3, rKv1.1, Shaker IR and rKv1.2. Furthermore, we also report for the first time a venom composition and biological activity comparison between two geographically distant populations of sea anemones.
PMCID: PMC3705364  PMID: 23466933
sea anemone; Bunodosoma caissarum; neurotoxins; voltage-gated potassium channels; two-electrode voltage-clamp; Xenopus laevis; intraspecific venom variation; Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago
15.  Evidence of Accelerated Evolution and Ectodermal-Specific Expression of Presumptive BDS Toxin cDNAs from Anemonia viridis 
Marine Drugs  2013;11(11):4213-4231.
Anemonia viridis is a widespread and extensively studied Mediterranean species of sea anemone from which a large number of polypeptide toxins, such as blood depressing substances (BDS) peptides, have been isolated. The first members of this class, BDS-1 and BDS-2, are polypeptides belonging to the β-defensin fold family and were initially described for their antihypertensive and antiviral activities. BDS-1 and BDS-2 are 43 amino acid peptides characterised by three disulfide bonds that act as neurotoxins affecting Kv3.1, Kv3.2 and Kv3.4 channel gating kinetics. In addition, BDS-1 inactivates the Nav1.7 and Nav1.3 channels. The development of a large dataset of A. viridis expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and the identification of 13 putative BDS-like cDNA sequences has attracted interest, especially as scientific and diagnostic tools. A comparison of BDS cDNA sequences showed that the untranslated regions are more conserved than the protein-coding regions. Moreover, the KA/KS ratios calculated for all pairwise comparisons showed values greater than 1, suggesting mechanisms of accelerated evolution. The structures of the BDS homologs were predicted by molecular modelling. All toxins possess similar 3D structures that consist of a triple-stranded antiparallel β-sheet and an additional small antiparallel β-sheet located downstream of the cleavage/maturation site; however, the orientation of the triple-stranded β-sheet appears to differ among the toxins. To characterise the spatial expression profile of the putative BDS cDNA sequences, tissue-specific cDNA libraries, enriched for BDS transcripts, were constructed. In addition, the proper amplification of ectodermal or endodermal markers ensured the tissue specificity of each library. Sequencing randomly selected clones from each library revealed ectodermal-specific expression of ten BDS transcripts, while transcripts of BDS-8, BDS-13, BDS-14 and BDS-15 failed to be retrieved, likely due to under-representation in our cDNA libraries. The calculation of the relative abundance of BDS transcripts in the cDNA libraries revealed that BDS-1, BDS-3, BDS-4, BDS-5 and BDS-6 are the most represented transcripts.
PMCID: PMC3853724  PMID: 24177670
Anemonia viridis; BDS peptides; accelerated evolution; molecular modelling; tissue-specific libraries; gene expression pattern
16.  Action of Clathrodin and Analogues on Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels 
Marine Drugs  2014;12(4):2132-2143.
Clathrodin is a marine alkaloid and believed to be a modulator of voltage-gated sodium (NaV ) channels. Since there is an urgent need for small molecule NaV channel ligands as novel therapeutics, clathrodin could represent an interesting lead compound. Therefore, clathrodin was reinvestigated for its potency and NaV channel subtype selectivity. Clathrodin and its synthetic analogues were subjected to screening on a broad range of NaV channel isoforms, both in voltage clamp and patch clamp conditions. Even though clathrodin was not found to exert any activity, some analogues were capable of modulating the NaV channels, hereby validating the pyrrole-2-aminoimidazole alkaloid structure as a core structure for future small molecule-based NaV channel modulators.
PMCID: PMC4012458  PMID: 24714127
clathrodin; oroidin; hymenidin; voltage-gated sodium channels; sodium channel modulator; sponge
17.  Mechanism of sodium channel NaV1.9 potentiation by G-protein signaling 
The Journal of General Physiology  2013;141(2):193-202.
Tetrodotoxin (TTX)-resistant voltage-gated Na (NaV) channels have been implicated in nociception. In particular, NaV1.9 contributes to expression of persistent Na current in small diameter, nociceptive sensory neurons in dorsal root ganglia and is required for inflammatory pain sensation. Using ND7/23 cells stably expressing human NaV1.9, we elucidated the biophysical mechanisms responsible for potentiation of channel activity by G-protein signaling to better understand the response to inflammatory mediators. Heterologous NaV1.9 expression evoked TTX-resistant Na current with peak activation at −40 mV with extensive overlap in voltage dependence of activation and inactivation. Inactivation kinetics were slow and incomplete, giving rise to large persistent Na currents. Single-channel recording demonstrated long openings and correspondingly high open probability (Po) accounting for the large persistent current amplitude. Channels exposed to intracellular GTPγS, a proxy for G-protein signaling, exhibited twofold greater current density, slowing of inactivation, and a depolarizing shift in voltage dependence of inactivation but no change in activation voltage dependence. At the single-channel level, intracellular GTPγS had no effect on single-channel amplitude but caused an increased mean open time and greater Po compared with recordings made in the absence of GTPγS. We conclude that G-protein activation potentiates human NaV1.9 activity by increasing channel open probability and mean open time, causing the larger peak and persistent current, respectively. Our results advance our understanding about the mechanism of NaV1.9 potentiation by G-protein signaling during inflammation and provide a cellular platform useful for the discovery of NaV1.9 modulators with potential utility in treating inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC3557314  PMID: 23359282
18.  Synergistic and Antagonistic Interactions between Tetrodotoxin and μ-Conotoxin in Blocking Voltage-gated Sodium Channels 
Channels (Austin, Tex.)  2009;3(1):32-38.
Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is the quintessential ligand of voltage-gated sodium channels (NaVs). Like TTX, μ-conotoxin peptides are pore blockers, and both toxins have helped to define the properties of neurotoxin receptor Site 1 of NaVs. Here, we report unexpected results showing that the recently discovered μ-conotoxin KIIIA and TTX can simultaneously bind to Site 1 and act in concert. Results with saturating concentrations of peptide applied to voltage-clamped Xenopus oocytes expressing brain NaV1.2, and single-channel recordings from brain channels in lipid bilayers, show that KIIIA or its analog, KIIIA[K7A], block partially, with a residual current that can be completely blocked by TTX. In addition, the kinetics of block by TTX and peptide are each affected by the prior presence of the other toxin. For example, bound peptide slows subsequent binding of TTX (an antagonistic interaction) and slows TTX dissociation when both toxins are bound (a synergistic effect on block). The overall functional consequence resulting from the combined action of the toxins depends on the quantitative balance between these opposing actions. The results lead us to postulate that in the bi-liganded NaV complex, TTX is bound between the peptide and the selectivity filter. These observations refine our view of Site 1 and open new possibilities in NaV pharmacology.
PMCID: PMC2878737  PMID: 19221510
conotoxin; contratoxin; NaV1.2; oocyte; sodium channel; site 1; syntoxin; tetrodotoxin; voltage clamp
Journal of proteome research  2012;11(12):5994-6007.
Cardiac voltage-gated Na+ (Nav) channels are key determinants of action potential waveforms, refractoriness and propagation, and Nav1.5 is the main Nav pore-forming (α) subunit in the mammalian heart. Although direct phosphorylation of the Nav1.5 protein has been suggested to modulate various aspects of Nav channel physiology and pathophysiology, native Nav1.5 phosphorylation sites have not been identified. In the experiments here, a mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomic approach was developed to identify native Nav1.5 phosphorylation sites directly. Using an anti-NavPAN antibody, Nav channel complexes were immunoprecipitated from adult mouse cardiac ventricles. The MS analyses revealed that this antibody immunoprecipitates several Nav α subunits in addition to Nav1.5, as well as several previously identified Nav channel associated/regulatory proteins. Label-free comparative and data-driven phosphoproteomic analyses of purified cardiac Nav1.5 protein identified 11 phosphorylation sites, 8 of which are novel. All the phosphorylation sites identified except one in the N-terminus are in the first intracellular linker loop, suggesting critical roles for this region in phosphorylation-dependent cardiac Nav channel regulation. Interestingly, commonly used prediction algorithms did not reliably predict these newly identified in situ phosphorylation sites. Taken together, the results presented provide the first in situ map of basal phosphorylation sites on the mouse cardiac Nav1.5 α subunit.
PMCID: PMC3518584  PMID: 23092124
Nav1.5 Channels; Heart; Native Phosphorylations; Mass Spectrometric Identifications; Label-free Comparative and Data-driven LC-MS/MS Analyses
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
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.  Multi-site Phosphorylation of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel α Subunits from Rat Brain 
Journal of proteome research  2010;9(4):1976-1984.
Reversible phosphorylation of ion channels underlies cellular plasticity in mammalian neurons. Voltage-gated sodium or Nav channels underlie action potential initiation and propagation, dendritic excitability, and many other aspects of neuronal excitability. Various protein kinases have been suggested to phosphorylate the primary α subunit of Nav channels, affecting diverse aspects of channel function. Previous studies of Nav α subunit phosphorylation have led to the identification of a small set of phosphorylation sites important in meditating aspects of Nav channel function. Here we use nanoflow liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (nano-LC MS/MS) on Nav α subunits affinity-purified from rat brain with two distinct monoclonal antibodies to identify 15 phosphorylation sites on Nav1.2, 12 of which have not been previously reported. We also found 3 novel phosphorylation sites on Nav1.1. In general, commonly used phosphorylation site prediction algorithms did not accurately predict these novel in vivo phosphorylation sites. Our results demonstrate that specific Nav α subunits isolated from rat brain are highly phosphorylated, and suggest extensive modulation of Nav channel activity in mammalian brain. Identification of phosphorylation sites using monoclonal antibody-based immunopurification and mass spectrometry is an effective approach to define the phosphorylation status of Nav channels and important membrane proteins in mammalian brain.
PMCID: PMC2849892  PMID: 20131913
voltage-gated sodium channels; brain; phosphorylation; tandem mass spectrometry; immunopurification; monoclonal antibody; nanoflow liquid chromatography
23.  Adaptive evolution of the vertebrate skeletal muscle sodium channel 
Genetics and Molecular Biology  2011;34(2):323-328.
Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a highly potent neurotoxin that blocks the action potential by selectively binding to voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav). The skeletal muscle Nav (Nav1.4) channels in most pufferfish species and certain North American garter snakes are resistant to TTX, whereas in most mammals they are TTX-sensitive. It still remains unclear as to whether the difference in this sensitivity among the various vertebrate species can be associated with adaptive evolution. In this study, we investigated the adaptive evolution of the vertebrate Nav1.4 channels. By means of the CODEML program of the PAML 4.3 package, the lineages of both garter snakes and pufferfishes were denoted to be under positive selection. The positively selected sites identified in the p-loop regions indicated their involvement in Nav1.4 channel sensitivity to TTX. Most of these sites were located in the intracellular regions of the Nav1.4 channel, thereby implying the possible association of these regions with the regulation of voltage-sensor movement.
PMCID: PMC3115330  PMID: 21734837
skeletal muscle voltage-gated Na (Nav1.4) channel; tetrodotoxin (TTX); positive selection; pufferfish; garter snake
24.  Functional properties and toxin pharmacology of a dorsal root ganglion sodium channel viewed through its voltage sensors 
The voltage-activated sodium (Nav) channel Nav1.9 is expressed in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons where it is believed to play an important role in nociception. Progress in revealing the functional properties and pharmacological sensitivities of this non-canonical Nav channel has been slow because attempts to express this channel in a heterologous expression system have been unsuccessful. Here, we use a protein engineering approach to dissect the contributions of the four Nav1.9 voltage sensors to channel function and pharmacology. We define individual S3b–S4 paddle motifs within each voltage sensor, and show that they can sense changes in membrane voltage and drive voltage sensor activation when transplanted into voltage-activated potassium channels. We also find that the paddle motifs in Nav1.9 are targeted by animal toxins, and that these toxins alter Nav1.9-mediated currents in DRG neurons. Our results demonstrate that slowly activating and inactivating Nav1.9 channels have functional and pharmacological properties in common with canonical Nav channels, but also show distinctive pharmacological sensitivities that can potentially be exploited for developing novel treatments for pain.
PMCID: PMC3135324  PMID: 21670206
25.  Single-cell analysis of sodium channel expression in dorsal root ganglion neurons 
Sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) express multiple voltage-gated sodium (Na) channels that substantially differ in gating kinetics and pharmacology. Small-diameter (<25 µm) neurons isolated from the rat DRG express a combination of fast tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-S) and slow TTX-resistant (TTX-R) Na currents while large-diameter neurons (>30 µm) predominately express fast TTX-S Na current. Na channel expression was further investigated using single-cell RT-PCR to measure the transcripts present in individually harvested DRG neurons. Consistent with cellular electrophysiology, the small neurons expressed transcripts encoding for both TTX-S (Nav1.1, Nav1.2, Nav1.6, Nav1.7) and TTX-R (Nav1.8, Nav1.9) Na channels. Nav1.7, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 were the predominant Na channels expressed in the small neurons. The large neurons highly expressed TTX-S isoforms (Nav1.1, Nav1.6, Nav1.7) while TTX-R channels were present at comparatively low levels. A unique subpopulation of the large neurons was identified that expressed TTX-R Na current and high levels of Nav1.8 transcript. DRG neurons also displayed substantial differences in the expression of neurofilaments (NF200, peripherin) and Necl-1, a neuronal adhesion molecule involved in myelination. The preferential expression of NF200 and Necl-1 suggests that large-diameter neurons give rise to thick myelinated axons. Small-diameter neurons expressed peripherin, but reduced levels of NF200 and Necl-1, a pattern more consistent with thin unmyelinated axons. Single-cell analysis of Na channel transcripts indicates that TTX-S and TTX-R Na channels are differentially expressed in large myelinated (Nav1.1, Nav1.6, Nav1.7) and small unmyelinated (Nav1.7, Nav1.8, Nav1.9) sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3005531  PMID: 20816971
Sodium channel; dorsal root ganglia; single-cell RT-PCR; Necl-1; NF200; peripherin

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