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1.  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
2.  Antisense-Mediated Knockdown of NaV1.8, but Not NaV1.9, Generates Inhibitory Effects on Complete Freund's Adjuvant-Induced Inflammatory Pain in Rat 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19865.
Tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) sodium channels NaV1.8 and NaV1.9 in sensory neurons were known as key pain modulators. Comparing with the widely reported NaV1.8, roles of NaV1.9 on inflammatory pain are poorly studied by antisense-induced specific gene knockdown. Here, we used molecular, electrophysiological and behavioral methods to examine the effects of antisense oligodeoxynucleotide (AS ODN) targeting NaV1.8 and NaV1.9 on inflammatory pain. Following complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) inflammation treatment, NaV1.8 and NaV1.9 in rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) up-regulated mRNA and protein expressions and increased sodium current densities. Immunohistochemical data demonstrated that NaV1.8 mainly localized in medium and small-sized DRG neurons, whereas NaV1.9 only expressed in small-sized DRG neurons. Intrathecal (i.t.) delivery of AS ODN was used to down-regulate NaV1.8 or NaV1.9 expressions confirmed by immunohistochemistry and western blot. Unexpectedly, behavioral tests showed that only NaV1.8 AS ODN, but not NaV1.9 AS ODN could reverse CFA-induced heat and mechanical hypersensitivity. Our data indicated that TTX-R sodium channels NaV1.8 and NaV1.9 in primary sensory neurons played distinct roles in CFA-induced inflammatory pain and suggested that antisense oligodeoxynucleotide-mediated blocking of key pain modulator might point toward a potential treatment strategy against certain types of inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC3091880  PMID: 21572961
3.  Protein kinase B/Akt is required for complete Freund’s adjuvant-induced upregulation of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 in primary sensory neurons 
Voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav) are essential for the generation and conduction of action potentials. Peripheral inflammation increases the expression of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, suggesting that they participate in the induction and maintenance of chronic inflammatory pain. However, how Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 are regulated in the DRG under inflammatory pain conditions remains unclear. Using a complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA)-induced chronic inflammatory pain model and Western blot analysis, we found that phosphorylated Akt (p-Akt) was significantly increased in the ipsilateral L4/5 DRGs of rats on days 3 and 7 after intraplantar CFA injection. Immunohistochemistry showed that the percentage of p-Akt-positive neurons in the DRG was also significantly increased in the ipsilateral L4/5 DRGs at these times. Moreover, CFA injection increased the colocalization of p-Akt with Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 in L4/5 DRG neurons. Pretreatment of rats with an intrathecal injection of Akt inhibitor IV blocked CFA-induced thermal hyperalgesia and CFA-induced increases in Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 in the L4/5 DRGs on day 7 after CFA injection. Our findings suggest that the Akt pathway participates in inflammation-induced upregulation of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 expression in DRG neurons. This participation might contribute to the maintenance of chronic inflammatory pain.
This article presents that inhibition of Akt blocks CFA-induced thermal hyperalgesia and CFA-induced increases in dorsal root ganglion Nav1.7 and Nav1.8. These findings have potential implications for use of Akt inhibitors to prevent and/or treat persistent inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC3672264  PMID: 23642408
Nav1.7; Nav1.8; Akt; Dorsal root ganglion; Inflammatory pain
4.  Knockdown of sodium channel NaV1.6 blocks mechanical pain and abnormal bursting activity of afferent neurons in inflamed sensory ganglia 
Pain  2013;154(8):1170-1180.
Inflammatory processes in the sensory ganglia contribute to many forms of chronic pain. We previously showed that local inflammation of the lumbar sensory ganglia rapidly leads to prolonged mechanical pain behaviors and high levels of spontaneous bursting activity in myelinated cells. Abnormal spontaneous activity of sensory neurons occurs early in many preclinical pain models, and initiates many other pathological changes, but its molecular basis is not well understood. The sodium channel isoform NaV1.6 can underlie repetitive firing and excitatory persistent and resurgent currents. We used in vivo knockdown of this channel via local injection of siRNA to examine its role in chronic pain following local inflammation of the rat lumbar sensory ganglia. In normal DRG, quantitative PCR showed that cells capable of firing repetitively had significantly higher relative expression of NaV1.6. In inflamed DRG, spontaneously active bursting cells expressed high levels of NaV1.6′ immunoreactivity. In vivo knockdown of NaV1.6 locally in the lumbar DRG at the time of DRG inflammation completely blocked development of pain behaviors and abnormal spontaneous activity, while having only minor effects on unmyelinated C-cells. Current research on isoform-specific sodium channel blockers for chronic pain is largely focused on NaV1.8, because it is present primarily in unmyelinated C fiber nociceptors, or on NaV1.7, because lack of this channel causes congenital indifference to pain. However, the results suggest that NaV1.6 may be a useful therapeutic target for chronic pain, and that some pain conditions may be primarily mediated by myelinated A-fiber sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3699898  PMID: 23622763
Nav1.6; Scn8a; back pain; spontaneous activity; allodynia; inflammation
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  Expression of Nav1.7 in DRG neurons extends from peripheral terminals in the skin to central preterminal branches and terminals in the dorsal horn 
Molecular Pain  2012;8:82.
Sodium channel Nav1.7 has emerged as a target of considerable interest in pain research, since loss-of-function mutations in SCN9A, the gene that encodes Nav1.7, are associated with a syndrome of congenital insensitivity to pain, gain-of-function mutations are linked to the debiliting chronic pain conditions erythromelalgia and paroxysmal extreme pain disorder, and upregulated expression of Nav1.7 accompanies pain in diabetes and inflammation. Since Nav1.7 has been implicated as playing a critical role in pain pathways, we examined by immunocytochemical methods the expression and distribution of Nav1.7 in rat dorsal root ganglia neurons, from peripheral terminals in the skin to central terminals in the spinal cord dorsal horn.
Nav1.7 is robustly expressed within the somata of peptidergic and non-peptidergic DRG neurons, and along the peripherally- and centrally-directed C-fibers of these cells. Nav1.7 is also expressed at nodes of Ranvier in a subpopulation of Aδ-fibers within sciatic nerve and dorsal root. The peripheral terminals of DRG neurons within skin, intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENF), exhibit robust Nav1.7 immunolabeling. The central projections of DRG neurons in the superficial lamina of spinal cord dorsal horn also display Nav1.7 immunoreactivity which extends to presynaptic terminals.
The expression of Nav1.7 in DRG neurons extends from peripheral terminals in the skin to preterminal central branches and terminals in the dorsal horn. These data support a major contribution for Nav1.7 in pain pathways, including action potential electrogenesis, conduction along axonal trunks and depolarization/invasion of presynaptic axons. The findings presented here may be important for pharmaceutical development, where target engagement in the right compartment is essential.
PMCID: PMC3517774  PMID: 23134641
Dorsal root ganglia; Dorsal horn; Intraepidermal nerve fiber; Pain pathway; Sodium channel; Spinal cord
10.  PKC–NF-κB are involved in CCL2-induced Nav1.8 expression and channel function in dorsal root ganglion neurons 
Bioscience Reports  2014;34(3):e00111.
CCL2 [chemokine (C–C motif) ligand 2] contributes to the inflammation-induced neuropathic pain through activating VGSC (voltage-gated sodium channel)-mediated nerve impulse conduction, but the underlying mechanism is currently unknown. Our study aimed to investigate whether PKC (protein kinase C)–NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) is involved in CCL2-induced regulation of voltage-gated sodium Nav1.8 currents and expression. DRG (dorsal root ganglion) neurons were prepared from adult male Sprague–Dawley rats and incubated with various concentration of CCL2 for 24 h. Whole-cell patch-clamps were performed to record the Nav1.8 currents in response to the induction by CCL2. After being pretreated with 5 and10 nM CCL2 for 16 h, CCR2 [chemokine (C–C motif) receptor 2] and Nav1.8 expression significantly increased and the peak currents of Nav1.8 elevated from the baseline 46.53±4.53 pA/pF to 64.28±3.12 pA/pF following 10 nM CCL2 (P<0.05). Compared with the control, significant change in Nav1.8 current density was observed when the CCR2 inhibitor INCB3344 (10 nM) was applied. Furthermore, inhibition of PKC by AEB071 significantly eliminated CCL2-induced elevated Nav1.8 currents. In vitro PKC kinase assays and autoradiograms suggested that Nav1.8 within DRG neurons was a substrate of PKC and direct phosphorylation of the Nav1.8 channel by PKC regulates its function in these neurons. Moreover, p65 expression was significantly higher in CCL2-induced neurons (P<0.05), and was reversed by treatment with INCB3344 and AEB071. PKC–NF-κB are involved in CCL2-induced elevation of Nav1.8 current density by promoting the phosphorylation of Nav1.8 and its expression.
Cytokine CCL2 is responsible for promoting voltage-gated sodium Nav1.8 current density and expression, which mediates nerve impulse conduction and induces inflammatory nociception. PKC phosphorylates Nav1.8 to increase its current density and PKC–NF-κB are involved in inducing the up-regulation of Nav1.8.
PMCID: PMC4062041  PMID: 24724624
CCL2; CCR2; dorsal root ganglion (DRG); Nav1.8; nociception; PKC; CCL2, chemokine (C–C motif) ligand 2; CCR2, chemokine (C–C motif) receptor 2; DRG, dorsal root ganglion; GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; NF-κB, nuclear factor κB; PKC, protein kinase C; TEA-Cl, tetraethylammonium-Cl; TRPV1, transient receptor potential vanilloid 1; TTX-R, tetrodotoxin-resistant; VGSC, voltage-gated sodium channel
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  Association between Tetrodotoxin Resistant Channels and Lipid Rafts Regulates Sensory Neuron Excitability 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e40079.
Voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) play a key role in the initiation and propagation of action potentials in neurons. NaV1.8 is a tetrodotoxin (TTX) resistant VGSC expressed in nociceptors, peripheral small-diameter neurons able to detect noxious stimuli. NaV1.8 underlies the vast majority of sodium currents during action potentials. Many studies have highlighted a key role for NaV1.8 in inflammatory and chronic pain models. Lipid rafts are microdomains of the plasma membrane highly enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipids. Lipid rafts tune the spatial and temporal organisation of proteins and lipids on the plasma membrane. They are thought to act as platforms on the membrane where proteins and lipids can be trafficked, compartmentalised and functionally clustered. In the present study we investigated NaV1.8 sub-cellular localisation and explored the idea that it is associated with lipid rafts in nociceptors. We found that NaV1.8 is distributed in clusters along the axons of DRG neurons in vitro and ex vivo. We also demonstrated, by biochemical and imaging studies, that NaV1.8 is associated with lipid rafts along the sciatic nerve ex vivo and in DRG neurons in vitro. Moreover, treatments with methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD) and 7-ketocholesterol (7KC) led to the dissociation between rafts and NaV1.8. By calcium imaging we demonstrated that the lack of association between rafts and NaV1.8 correlated with impaired neuronal excitability, highlighted by a reduction in the number of neurons able to conduct mechanically- and chemically-evoked depolarisations. These findings reveal the sub-cellular localisation of NaV1.8 in nociceptors and highlight the importance of the association between NaV1.8 and lipid rafts in the control of nociceptor excitability.
PMCID: PMC3411591  PMID: 22870192
15.  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
16.  Early Painful Diabetic Neuropathy Is Associated with Differential Changes in Tetrodotoxin-sensitive and -resistant Sodium Channels in Dorsal Root Ganglion Neurons in the Rat* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2004;279(28):29341-29350.
Diabetic neuropathy is a common form of peripheral neuropathy, yet the mechanisms responsible for pain in this disease are poorly understood. Alterations in the expression and function of voltage-gated tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) sodium channels have been implicated in animal models of neuropathic pain, including models of diabetic neuropathy. We investigated the expression and function of TTX-sensitive (TTX-S) and TTX-R sodium channels in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and the responses to thermal hyperalgesia and mechanical allodynia in streptozotocin-treated rats between 4–8 weeks after onset of diabetes. Diabetic rats demonstrated a significant reduction in the threshold for escape from innocuous mechanical pressure (allodynia) and a reduction in the latency to withdrawal from a noxious thermal stimulus (hyperalgesia). Both TTX-S and TTX-R sodium currents increased significantly in small DRG neurons isolated from diabetic rats. The voltage-dependent activation and steady-state inactivation curves for these currents were shifted negatively. TTX-S currents induced by fast or slow voltage ramps increased markedly in neurons from diabetic rats. Immunoblots and immunofluorescence staining demonstrated significant increases in the expression of Nav1.3 (TTX-S) and Nav1.7 (TTX-S) and decreases in the expression of Nav1.6 (TTX-S) and Nav1.8 (TTX-R) in diabetic rats. The level of serine/threonine phosphorylation of Nav1.6 and Nav1.8 increased in response to diabetes. In addition, increased tyrosine phosphorylation of Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 was observed in DRGs from diabetic rats. These results suggest that both TTX-S and TTX-R sodium channels play important roles and that differential phosphorylation of sodium channels involving both serine/threonine and tyrosine sites contributes to painful diabetic neuropathy.
PMCID: PMC1828032  PMID: 15123645
17.  Osteoarthritis-dependent changes in antinociceptive action of Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 sodium channel blockers: An in vivo electrophysiological study in the rat 
Neuroscience  2015;295:103-116.
•MIA-dependent antinociceptive effect of ProTxII and A-803467 on neuronal activity.•Changes in Nav1.7 and 1.8 channel function contribute to osteoarthritic pain.•Blocking Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 channels has therapeutic potential for the treatment of osteoarthritic pain.
Voltage-gated sodium channel blockers are not traditionally recommended for osteoarthritis (OA) pain therapy, but given the large peripheral drive that follows OA development there is a rationale for their use. Using a rat model of monosodium iodoacetate (MIA)-induced OA we used in vivo electrophysiology to assess the effects of the Nav1.7- and Nav1.8-selective antagonists, ProTxII and A-803467 respectively, on the evoked activity of spinal dorsal horn neurons in response to electrical, mechanical and thermal stimuli applied to the peripheral receptive field. These studies allow examination of the roles of these channels in suprathreshold stimuli, not amenable to behavioral threshold measures. Spinal administration of ProTxII significantly reduced neuronal responses evoked by mechanical punctate (von Frey (vF) 8–60 g) and noxious thermal (45 and 48 °C) stimuli in MIA rats only. A-803467 significantly inhibited neuronal responses evoked by vF 8–60 g and 48 °C heat after spinal administration; significantly inhibited responses evoked by brush, vFs 26–60 g and 40–48 °C stimuli after systemic administration; significantly inhibited the electrically evoked Aδ-, C-fiber, post-discharge, Input and wind-up responses and the brush, vFs 8–60 g and 45–48 °C evoked neuronal responses after intra plantar injection in the MIA group. In comparison A-803467 effects in the sham group were minimal and included a reduction of the neuronal response evoked by vF 60 g and 45 °C heat stimulation after spinal administration, no effect after systemic administration and an inhibition of the evoked response to 45 °C heat after intra plantar injection only. The observed selective inhibitory effect of ProTxII and A-803467 for the MIA-treated group suggests an increased role of Nav1.7 and 1.8 within nociceptive pathways in the arthritic condition, located at peripheral and central sites. These findings demonstrate the importance of, and add to, the mechanistic understanding of these channels in osteoarthritic pain.
PMCID: PMC4414363  PMID: 25818052
C-LTMs, C-low-threshold mechanoreceptors; DRG, dorsal root ganglia; KO, knockout; MIA, monosodium iodoacetate; NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; OA, osteoarthritis; PWF, paw withdrawal frequency; PWT, paw withdrawal threshold; RM ANOVA, repeated-measures analysis of variance; SEM, standard error of the mean; vF, von Frey; VGSCs, voltage-gated sodium channels; WDR, wide dynamic range; osteoarthritis; pain; dorsal horn; sodium channels; electrophysiology
18.  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)
19.  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
20.  Reduced expression and activation of voltage-gated sodium channels contributes to blunted baroreflex sensitivity in heart failure rats 
Journal of neuroscience research  2010;88(15):3337-3349.
Voltage-gated sodium (Nav) channels are responsible for initiation and propagation of action potential in the neurons. To explore the mechanisms for chronic heart failure (CHF)-induced baroreflex dysfunction, we measured the expression and current density of Nav channel subunits (Nav1.7, Nav1.8, and Nav1.9) in the aortic baroreceptor neurons and investigated the role of Nav channels on aortic baroreceptor neuron excitability and baroreflex sensitivity in sham and CHF rats. CHF was induced by left coronary artery ligation. The development of CHF (6–8 weeks after the coronary ligation) was confirmed by hemodynamic and morphological characteristics. Immunofluorescent data indicated that Nav1.7 was expressed in A-type (myelinated) and C-type (unmyelinated) nodose neurons but Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 were expressed only in C-type nodose neurons. Real-time RT-PCR and western blot data showed that CHF reduced mRNA and protein expression levels of Nav channels in nodose neurons. In addition, using the whole cell patch-clamp technique, we found that Nav current density and cell excitability of the aortic baroreceptor neurons were lower in CHF rats than that in sham rats. Aortic baroreflex sensitivity was blunted in anesthetized CHF rats, compared with that in sham rats. Furthermore, Nav channel activator (rATX II, 100 nM) significantly enhanced Nav current density and cell excitability of aortic baroreceptor neurons and improved aortic baroreflex sensitivity in CHF rats. These results suggest that reduced expression and activation of the Nav channels is involved in the attenuation of baroreceptor neuron excitability, which subsequently contributes to the impairment of baroreflex in CHF state.
PMCID: PMC2953570  PMID: 20857502
Aortic baroreceptor neuron; Baroreflex; Heart failure; Sodium channel
21.  CC chemokine ligand 2 upregulates the current density and expression of TRPV1 channels and Nav1.8 sodium channels in dorsal root ganglion neurons 
Inflammation or nerve injury-induced upregulation and release of chemokine CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) within the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is believed to enhance the activity of DRG nociceptive neurons and cause hyperalgesia. Transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) and tetrodotoxin (TTX)-resistant Nav1.8 sodium channels play an essential role in regulating the excitability and pain transmission of DRG nociceptive neurons. We therefore tested the hypothesis that CCL2 causes peripheral sensitization of nociceptive DRG neurons by upregulating the function and expression of TRPV1 and Nav1.8 channels.
DRG neuronal culture was prepared from 3-week-old Sprague–Dawley rats and incubated with various concentrations of CCL2 for 24 to 36 hours. Whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings were performed to record TRPV1 agonist capsaicin-evoked inward currents or TTX-insensitive Na+ currents from control or CCL2-treated small DRG sensory neurons. The CCL2 effect on the mRNA expression of TRPV1 or Nav1.8 was measured by real-time quantitative RT-PCR assay.
Pretreatment of CCL2 for 24 to 36 hours dose-dependently (EC50 value = 0.6 ± 0.05 nM) increased the density of capsaicin-induced currents in small putative DRG nociceptive neurons. TRPV1 mRNA expression was greatly upregulated in DRG neurons preincubated with 5 nM CCL2. Pretreating small DRG sensory neurons with CCL2 also increased the density of TTX-resistant Na+ currents with a concentration-dependent manner (EC50 value = 0.7 ± 0.06 nM). The Nav1.8 mRNA level was significantly increased in DRG neurons pretreated with CCL2. In contrast, CCL2 preincubation failed to affect the mRNA level of TTX-resistant Nav1.9. In the presence of the specific phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002 or Akt inhibitor IV, CCL2 pretreatment failed to increase the current density of capsaicin-evoked inward currents or TTX-insensitive Na+ currents and the mRNA level of TRPV1 or Nav1.8.
Our results showed that CCL2 increased the function and mRNA level of TRPV1 channels and Nav1.8 sodium channels in small DRG sensory neurons via activating the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. These findings suggest that following tissue inflammation or peripheral nerve injury, upregulation and release of CCL2 within the DRG could facilitate pain transmission mediated by nociceptive DRG neurons and could induce hyperalgesia by upregulating the expression and function of TRPV1 and Nav1.8 channels in DRG nociceptive neurons.
PMCID: PMC3458897  PMID: 22870919
CC chemokine ligand 2; Dorsal root ganglion neurons; Transient receptor potential vanilloid receptor 1; Tetrodotoxin-resistant Nav1.8 sodium channel
22.  Continuous delta opioid receptor activation reduces neuronal voltage gated sodium channel (NaV1.7) levels through activation of protein kinase C in painful diabetic neuropathy 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2008;28(26):6652-6658.
The NaV1.7 tetrodotoxin-sensitive voltage-gated sodium channel isoform plays a critical role in nociception. In rodent models of diabetic neuropathy, increased NaV1.7 in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons correlates with the emergence of pain-related behaviors characteristic of painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN). We examined the effect of transgene-mediated expression of enkephalin on pain-related behaviors and their biochemical correlates in DRG neurons. Transfection of DRG neurons by subcutaneous inoculation of a herpes simplex virus (HSV)-based vector expressing proenkephalin (PE) reversed nocisponsive behavioral responses to heat, cold, and mechanical pressure characteristic of PDN. Vector-mediated enkephalin production in vivo prevented the increase in DRG NaV1.7 observed in PDN, an effect that correlated with inhibition of phosphorylation of p38 MAP kinase and protein kinase C (PKC). Primary DRG neurons in vitro exposed to 45 mM glucose for 18 hrs also demonstrated an increase in NaV1.7 and increased phosphorylation of p38 and PKC; these changes were prevented by transfection in vitro with the enkephalin-expressing vector. The effect of hyperglycemia on NaV1.7 production in vitro was mimicked by exposure to PMA, and blocked by the myristolated PKC inhibitor 20–28 or the p38 inhibitor SB202190; the effect of vector-mediated enkephalin on NaV1.7 levels was prevented by naltrindole. The results of these studies suggest that activation of the presynaptic delta opioid receptor by enkephalin prevents the increase in neuronal NaV1.7 in DRG through inhibition of PKC and p38. These results establish a novel interaction between the delta opioid receptor and voltage gated sodium channels.
PMCID: PMC3321315  PMID: 18579738
pain; diabetic neuropathy; sodium channel; gene therapy; herpes simplex; enkephalins
23.  Significant Determinants of Mouse Pain Behaviour 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104458.
Transgenic mouse behavioural analysis has furthered our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying damage sensing and pain. However, it is not unusual for conflicting data on the pain phenotypes of knockout mice to be generated by reputable groups. Here we focus on some technical aspects of measuring mouse pain behaviour that are often overlooked, which may help explain discrepancies in the pain literature. We examined touch perception using von Frey hairs and mechanical pain thresholds using the Randall-Selitto test. Thermal pain thresholds were measured using the Hargreaves apparatus and a thermal place preference test. Sodium channel Nav1.7 knockout mice show a mechanical deficit in the hairy skin, but not the paw, whilst shaving the abdominal hair abolished this phenotype. Nav1.7, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 knockout mice show deficits in noxious mechanosensation in the tail, but not the paw. TRPA1 knockout mice, however, have a loss of noxious mechanosensation in the paw but not the tail. Studies of heat and cold sensitivity also show variability depending on the intensity of the stimulus. Deleting Nav1.7, Nav1.8 or Nav1.9 in Nav1.8-positive sensory neurons attenuates responses to slow noxious heat ramps, whilst responses to fast noxious heat ramps are only reduced when Nav1.7 is lost in large diameter sensory neurons. Deleting Nav1.7 from all sensory neurons attenuates responses to noxious cooling but not extreme cold. Finally, circadian rhythms dramatically influence behavioural outcome measures such as von Frey responses, which change by 80% over the day. These observations demonstrate that fully characterising the phenotype of a transgenic mouse strain requires a range of behavioural pain models. Failure to conduct behavioural tests at different anatomical locations, stimulus intensities, and at different points in the circadian cycle may lead to a pain behavioural phenotype being misinterpreted, or missed altogether.
PMCID: PMC4125188  PMID: 25101983
24.  Neuroexcitatory effects of morphine-3-glucuronide are dependent on Toll-like receptor 4 signaling 
Multiple adverse events are associated with the use of morphine for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain, including opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). Mechanisms of OIH are independent of opioid tolerance and may involve the morphine metabolite morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G). M3G exhibits limited affinity for opioid receptors and no analgesic effect. Previous reports suggest that M3G can act via the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)/myeloid differentiation protein-2 (MD-2) heterodimer in the central nervous system to elicit pain.
Immunoblot and immunocytochemistry methods were used to characterize the protein expression of TLR4 present in lumbar dorsal root ganglion (DRG). Using in vitro intracellular calcium and current clamp techniques, we determined whether TLR4 activation as elicited by the prototypical agonists of TLR4, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and M3G, contributed to changes in intracellular calcium and increased excitation. Rodents were also injected with M3G to determine the degree to which M3G-induced tactile hyperalgesia could be diminished using either a small molecule inhibitor of the MD-2/TLR4 complex in rats or TLR4 knockout mice. Whole cell voltage-clamp recordings were made from small- and medium-diameter DRG neurons (25 μm < DRG diameter <45 μm) for both control and M3G-treated neurons to determine the potential influence on voltage-gated sodium channels (NaVs).
We observed that TLR4 immunoreactivity was present in peptidergic and non-peptidergic sensory neurons in the DRG. Non-neuronal cells in the DRG lacked evidence of TLR4 expression. Approximately 15% of assayed small- and medium-diameter sensory neurons exhibited a change in intracellular calcium following LPS administration. Both nociceptive and non-nociceptive neurons were observed to respond, and approximately 40% of these cells were capsaicin-insensitive. Increased excitability observed in sensory neurons following LPS or M3G could be eliminated using Compound 15, a small molecule inhibitor of the TLR4/MD-2 complex. Likewise, systemic injection of M3G induced rapid tactile, but not thermal, nociceptive behavioral changes in the rat, which were prevented by pre-treating animals with Compound 15. Unlike TLR4 wild-type mice, TLR4 knockout mice did not exhibit M3G-induced hyperalgesia. As abnormal pain sensitivity is often associated with NaVs, we predicted that M3G acting via the MD-2/TLR4 complex may affect the density and gating of NaVs in sensory neurons. We show that M3G increases tetrodotoxin-sensitive and tetrodotoxin-resistant (NaV1.9) current densities.
These outcomes provide evidence that M3G may play a role in OIH via the TLR4/MD-2 heterodimer complex and biophysical properties of tetrodotoxin-sensitive and tetrodotoxin-resistant NaV currents.
PMCID: PMC3519737  PMID: 22898544
25.  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

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