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1.  Pharmacological fractionation of tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium currents in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons by μ-conotoxins 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;169(1):102-114.
Background and Purpose
Adult rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons normally express transcripts for five isoforms of the α-subunit of voltage-gated sodium channels: NaV1.1, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8 and 1.9. Tetrodotoxin (TTX) readily blocks all but NaV1.8 and 1.9, and pharmacological agents that discriminate among the TTX-sensitive NaV1-isoforms are scarce. Recently, we used the activity profile of a panel of μ-conotoxins in blocking cloned rodent NaV1-isoforms expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes to conclude that action potentials of A- and C-fibres in rat sciatic nerve were, respectively, mediated primarily by NaV1.6 and NaV1.7.
Experimental Approach
We used three μ-conotoxins, μ-TIIIA, μ-PIIIA and μ-SmIIIA, applied individually and in combinations, to pharmacologically differentiate the TTX-sensitive INa of voltage-clamped neurons acutely dissociated from adult rat DRG. We examined only small and large neurons whose respective INa were >50% and >80% TTX-sensitive.
Key Results
In both small and large neurons, the ability of the toxins to block TTX-sensitive INa was μ-TIIIA < μ-PIIIA < μ-SmIIIA, with the latter blocking ≳90%. Comparison of the toxin-susceptibility profiles of the neuronal INa with recently acquired profiles of rat NaV1-isoforms, co-expressed with various NaVβ-subunits in X. laevis oocytes, were consistent: NaV1.1, 1.6 and 1.7 could account for all of the TTX-sensitive INa, with NaV1.1 < NaV1.6 < NaV1.7 for small neurons and NaV1.7 < NaV1.1 < NaV1.6 for large neurons.
Conclusions and Implications
Combinations of μ-conotoxins can be used to determine the probable NaV1-isoforms underlying the INa in DRG neurons. Preliminary experiments with sympathetic neurons suggest that this approach is extendable to other neurons.
PMCID: PMC3632242  PMID: 23351163
μ-conotoxin PIIIA; μ-conotoxin SmIIIA; μ-conotoxin TIIIA; dorsal root ganglion; superior cervical ganglion; tetrodotoxin; voltage-gated sodium channel; whole-cell patch clamp
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Inactivation properties of sodium channel Nav1.8 maintain action potential amplitude in small DRG neurons in the context of depolarization 
Molecular Pain  2007;3:12.
Small neurons of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) express five of the nine known voltage-gated sodium channels. Each channel has unique biophysical characteristics which determine how it contributes to the generation of action potentials (AP). To better understand how AP amplitude is maintained in nociceptive DRG neurons and their centrally projecting axons, which are subjected to depolarization within the dorsal horn, we investigated the dependence of AP amplitude on membrane potential, and how that dependence is altered by the presence or absence of sodium channel Nav1.8.
In small neurons cultured from wild type (WT) adult mouse DRG, AP amplitude decreases as the membrane potential is depolarized from -90 mV to -30 mV. The decrease in amplitude is best fit by two Boltzmann equations, having V1/2 values of -73 and -37 mV. These values are similar to the V1/2 values for steady-state fast inactivation of tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-s) sodium channels, and the tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-r) Nav1.8 sodium channel, respectively. Addition of TTX eliminates the more hyperpolarized V1/2 component and leads to increasing AP amplitude for holding potentials of -90 to -60 mV. This increase is substantially reduced by the addition of potassium channel blockers. In neurons from Nav1.8(-/-) mice, the voltage-dependent decrease in AP amplitude is characterized by a single Boltzmann equation with a V1/2 value of -55 mV, suggesting a shift in the steady-state fast inactivation properties of TTX-s sodium channels. Transfection of Nav1.8(-/-) DRG neurons with DNA encoding Nav1.8 results in a membrane potential-dependent decrease in AP amplitude that recapitulates WT properties.
We conclude that the presence of Nav1.8 allows AP amplitude to be maintained in DRG neurons and their centrally projecting axons even when depolarized within the dorsal horn.
PMCID: PMC1892009  PMID: 17540018
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  Dexmedetomidine inhibits Tetrodotoxin-resistant Nav1.8 sodium channel activity through Gi/o-dependent pathway in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:15.
Systemically administered dexmedetomidine (DEX), a selective α2 adrenergic receptor (α2-AR) agonists, produces analgesia and sedation. Peripherally restricted α2-AR antagonist could block the analgesic effect of systemic DEX on neuropathic pain, with no effect on sedation, indicating peripheral analgesic effect of DEX. Tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) sodium channel Nav1.8 play important roles in the conduction of nociceptive sensation. Both α2-AR and Nav1.8 are found in small nociceptive DRG neurons. We, therefore, investigated the effects of DEX on the Nav1.8 currents in acutely dissociated small-diameter DRG neurons.
Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings demonstrated that DEX concentration-dependently suppressed TTX-R Nav1.8 currents in small-diameter lumbar DRG neurons. DEX also shifted the steady-state inactivation curves of Nav1.8 in a hyperpolarizing direction and increased the threshold of action potential and decrease electrical and chemical stimuli-evoked firings in small-diameter DRG neurons. The α2-AR antagonist yohimbine or α2A-AR antagonist BRL44408 but not α2B-AR antagonist imiloxan blocked the inhibition of Nav1.8 currents by DEX. Immunohistochemistry results showed that Nav1.8 was predominantly expressed in peripherin-positive small-diameter DRG neurons, and some of them were α2A-AR-positive ones. Our electrophysiological recordings also demonstrated that DEX-induced inhibition of Nav1.8 currents was prevented by intracellular application of G-protein inhibitor GDPβ-s or Gi/o proteins inhibitor pertussis toxin (PTX), and bath application of adenylate cyclase (AC) activator forskolin or membrane-permeable cAMP analogue 8-Bromo-cAMP (8-Br-cAMP). PKA inhibitor Rp-cAMP could mimic DEX-induced inhibition of Nav1.8 currents.
We established a functional link between α2-AR and Nav1.8 in primary sensory neurons utilizing the Gi/o/AC/cAMP/PKA pathway, which probably mediating peripheral analgesia of DEX.
PMCID: PMC4350947  PMID: 25761941
α2-adrenoceptor; Dexmedetomidine; Dorsal root ganglion; Pain; Tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) sodium channel Nav1.8; Whole-cell recording
9.  Tetrodotoxin-Resistant Sodium Channels in Sensory Neurons Generate Slow Resurgent Currents That Are Enhanced by Inflammatory Mediators 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(21):7190-7197.
Resurgent sodium currents contribute to the regeneration of action potentials and enhanced neuronal excitability. Tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-S) resurgent currents have been described in many different neuron populations, including cerebellar and dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons. In most cases, sodium channel Nav1.6 is the major contributor to these TTX-S resurgent currents. Here we report a novel TTX-resistant (TTX-R) resurgent current recorded from rat DRG neurons. The TTX-R resurgent currents are similar to classic TTX-S resurgent currents in many respects, but not all. As with TTX-S resurgent currents, they are activated by membrane repolarization, inhibited by lidocaine, and enhanced by a peptide-mimetic of the β4 sodium channel subunit intracellular domain. However, the TTX-R resurgent currents exhibit much slower kinetics, occur at more depolarized voltages, and are sensitive to the Nav1.8 blocker A803467. Moreover, coimmunoprecipitation experiments from rat DRG lysates indicate the endogenous sodium channel β4 subunits associate with Nav1.8 in DRG neurons. These results suggest that slow TTX-R resurgent currents in DRG neurons are mediated by Nav1.8 and are generated by the same mechanism underlying TTX-S resurgent currents. We also show that both TTX-S and TTX-R resurgent currents in DRG neurons are enhanced by inflammatory mediators. Furthermore, the β4 peptide increased excitability of small DRG neurons in the presence of TTX. We propose that these slow TTX-R resurgent currents contribute to the membrane excitability of nociceptive DRG neurons under normal conditions and that enhancement of both types of resurgent currents by inflammatory mediators could contribute to sensory neuronal hyperexcitability associated with inflammatory pain.
PMCID: PMC4028496  PMID: 24849353
action potential; hyperexcitability; nociceptor; resurgent sodium current; sodium current; voltage clamp
10.  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
11.  Nav1.7 is the predominant sodium channel in rodent olfactory sensory neurons 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:32.
Voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7 is preferentially expressed in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and sympathetic neurons within the peripheral nervous system. Homozygous or compound heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in SCN9A, the gene which encodes Nav1.7, cause congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) accompanied by anosmia. Global knock-out of Nav1.7 in mice is neonatal lethal reportedly from starvation, suggesting anosmia. These findings led us to hypothesize that Nav1.7 is the main sodium channel in the peripheral olfactory sensory neurons (OSN, also known as olfactory receptor neurons).
We used multiplex PCR-restriction enzyme polymorphism, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry to determine the identity of sodium channels in rodent OSNs.
We show here that Nav1.7 is the predominant sodium channel transcript, with low abundance of other sodium channel transcripts, in olfactory epithelium from rat and mouse. Our in situ hybridization data show that Nav1.7 transcripts are present in rat OSNs. Immunostaining of Nav1.7 and Nav1.6 channels in rat shows a complementary accumulation pattern with Nav1.7 in peripheral presynaptic OSN axons, and Nav1.6 primarily in postsynaptic cells and their dendrites in the glomeruli of the olfactory bulb within the central nervous system.
Our data show that Nav1.7 is the dominant sodium channel in rat and mouse OSN, and may explain anosmia in Nav1.7 null mouse and patients with Nav1.7-related CIP.
PMCID: PMC3101130  PMID: 21569247
12.  Correlation of the electrophysiological profiles and sodium channel transcripts of individual rat dorsal root ganglia neurons 
Voltage gated sodium channels (Nav channels) play an important role in nociceptive transmission. They are intimately tied to the genesis and transmission of neuronal firing. Five different isoforms (Nav1.3, Nav1.6, Nav1.7, Nav1.8, and Nav1.9) have been linked to nociceptive responses. A change in the biophysical properties of these channels or in their expression levels occurs in different pathological pain states. However, the precise involvement of the isoforms in the genesis and transmission of nociceptive responses is unknown. The aim of the present study was to investigate the synergy between the different populations of Nav channels that give individual neurons a unique electrophysical profile. We used the patch-clamp technique in the whole-cell configuration to record Nav currents and action potentials from acutely dissociated small diameter DRG neurons (<30 μm) from adult rats. We also performed single cell qPCR on the same neurons. Our results revealed that there is a strong correlation between Nav currents and mRNA transcripts in individual neurons. A cluster analysis showed that subgroups formed by Nav channel transcripts by mRNA quantification have different biophysical properties. In addition, the firing frequency of the neurons was not affected by the relative populations of Nav channel. The synergy between populations of Nav channel in individual small diameter DRG neurons gives each neuron a unique electrophysiological profile. The Nav channel remodeling that occurs in different pathological pain states may be responsible for the sensitization of the neurons.
PMCID: PMC4168718  PMID: 25285069
voltage-gated sodium channel; neuronal excitability; pain; biophysical properties; dorsal root ganglia neurons
13.  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
14.  Biophysical properties of Nav1.8/Nav1.2 chimeras and inhibition by µO-conotoxin MrVIB 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2012;166(7):2148-2160.
Voltage-gated sodium channels are expressed primarily in excitable cells and play a pivotal role in the initiation and propagation of action potentials. Nine subtypes of the pore-forming α-subunit have been identified, each with a distinct tissue distribution, biophysical properties and sensitivity to tetrodotoxin (TTX). Nav1.8, a TTX-resistant (TTX-R) subtype, is selectively expressed in sensory neurons and plays a pathophysiological role in neuropathic pain. In comparison with TTX-sensitive (TTX-S) Navα-subtypes in neurons, Nav1.8 is most strongly inhibited by the µO-conotoxin MrVIB from Conus marmoreus. To determine which domain confers Nav1.8 α-subunit its biophysical properties and MrVIB binding, we constructed various chimeric channels incorporating sequence from Nav1.8 and the TTX-S Nav1.2 using a domain exchange strategy.
Wild-type and chimeric Nav channels were expressed in Xenopus oocytes, and depolarization-activated Na+ currents were recorded using the two-electrode voltage clamp technique.
MrVIB (1 µM) reduced Nav1.2 current amplitude to 69 ± 12%, whereas Nav1.8 current was reduced to 31 ± 3%, confirming that MrVIB has a binding preference for Nav1.8. A similar reduction in Na+ current amplitude was observed when MrVIB was applied to chimeras containing the region extending from S6 segment of domain I through the S5-S6 linker of domain II of Nav1.8. In contrast, MrVIB had only a small effect on Na+ current for chimeras containing the corresponding region of Nav1.2.
Taken together, these results suggest that domain II of Nav1.8 is an important determinant of MrVIB affinity, highlighting a region of the α-subunit that may allow further nociceptor-specific ligand targeting.
PMCID: PMC3402778  PMID: 22452751
electrophysiology; heterologous expression; Xenopus oocytes; chimera; µO-conotoxin MrVIB; tetrodotoxin; voltage-gated sodium channels; Nav1.2; Nav1.8
15.  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
16.  Actions of Tefluthrin on Rat Nav1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels Expressed in Xenopus Oocytes 
In rats expression of the Nav1.7 voltage-gated sodium channel isoform is restricted to the peripheral nervous system and is abundant in the sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglion. We expressed the rat Nav1.7 sodium channel α subunit together with the rat auxiliary β1 and β2 subunits in Xenopus laevis oocytes and assessed the effects of the pyrethroid insecticide tefluthrin on the expressed currents using the two-electrode voltage clamp method. Tefluthrin at 100 µM modified of Nav1.7 channels to prolong inactivation of the peak current during a depolarizing pulse, resulting in a marked "late current" at the end of a 40-ms depolarization, and induced a sodium tail current following repolarization. Tefluthrin modification was enhanced up to two-fold by the application of a train of up to 100 5-ms depolarizing prepulses. These effects of tefluthrin on Nav1.7 channels were qualitatively similar to its effects on rat Nav1.2, Nav1.3 and Nav1.6 channels assayed previously under identical conditions. However, Nav1.7 sodium channels were distinguished by their low sensitivity to modification by tefluthrin, especially compared to Nav1.3 and Nav1.6 channels. It is likely that Nav1.7 channels contribute significantly to the tetrodotoxin-sensitive, pyrethroid-resistant current found in cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons. We aligned the complete amino acid sequences of four pyrethroid-sensitive isoforms (house fly Vssc1; rat Nav1.3, Nav1.6 and Nav1.8) and two pyrethroid-resistant isoforms (rat Nav1.2 and Nav1.7) and found only a single site, located in transmembrane segment 6 of homology domain I, at which the amino acid sequence was conserved among all four sensitive isoform sequences but differed in the two resistant isoform sequences. This position, corresponding to Val410 of the house fly Vssc1 sequence, also aligns with sites of multiple amino acid substitutions identified in the sodium channel sequences of pyrethroid-resistant insect populations. These results implicate this single amino acid polymorphism in transmembrane segment 6 of sodium channel homology domain I as a determinant of the differential pyrethroid sensitivity of rat sodium channel isoforms.
PMCID: PMC3181098  PMID: 21966053
voltage-gated sodium channel; Nav1.7 isoform; pyrethroid; tefluthrin; peripheral nervous system; dorsal root ganglion
17.  NaV1.8 channels are expressed in large, as well as small, diameter sensory afferent neurons 
Channels  2013;7(1):34-37.
Sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) express a subset of voltage dependent sodium channels (NaV) including NaV1.1, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8 and 1.9. Previous work supported preferential localization of NaV1.8 channels to small-medium diameter, nociceptive afferent neurons. However, we recently published evidence that NaV1.8 was the dominant NaV channel expressed in the somas of small, medium and large diameter muscle afferent neurons, which is consistent with other reports. Here, we extend those results to show that NaV1.8 expression is not correlated with afferent neuron diameter. Using immunocytochemistry, we found NaV1.8 expression in ~50% of sensory afferent neurons with diameters ranging from 20 to 70 µm. In addition, electrophysiological analysis shows that the kinetic and inactivation properties of NaV1.8 current are invariant with neuron size. These data add further support to the idea that NaV1.8 contributes to the electrical excitability of both nociceptive and non-nociceptive sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3589279  PMID: 23064159
cutaneous afferents; muscle afferents; dorsal root ganglia neurons; Tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R)
18.  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
19.  Varicella-Zoster Viruses Associated with Post-Herpetic Neuralgia Induce Sodium Current Density Increases in the ND7-23 Nav-1.8 Neuroblastoma Cell Line 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e51570.
Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most significant complication of herpes zoster caused by reactivation of latent Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV). We undertook a heterologous infection in vitro study to determine whether PHN-associated VZV isolates induce changes in sodium ion channel currents known to be associated with neuropathic pain. Twenty VZV isolates were studied blind from 11 PHN and 9 non-PHN subjects. Viruses were propagated in the MeWo cell line from which cell-free virus was harvested and applied to the ND7/23-Nav1.8 rat DRG x mouse neuroblastoma hybrid cell line which showed constitutive expression of the exogenous Nav 1.8, and endogenous expression of Nav 1.6 and Nav 1.7 genes all encoding sodium ion channels the dysregulation of which is associated with a range of neuropathic pain syndromes. After 72 hrs all three classes of VZV gene transcripts were detected in the absence of infectious virus. Single cell sodium ion channel recording was performed after 72 hr by voltage-clamping. PHN-associated VZV significantly increased sodium current amplitude in the cell line when compared with non-PHN VZV, wild-type (Dumas) or vaccine VZV strains ((POka, Merck and GSK). These sodium current increases were unaffected by acyclovir pre-treatment but were abolished by exposure to Tetrodotoxin (TTX) which blocks the TTX-sensitive fast Nav 1.6 and Nav 1.7 channels but not the TTX-resistant slow Nav 1.8 channel. PHN-associated VZV sodium current increases were therefore mediated in part by the Nav 1.6 and Nav 1.7 sodium ion channels. An additional observation was a modest increase in message levels of both Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 mRNA but not Nav 1.8 in PHN virally infected cells.
PMCID: PMC3561399  PMID: 23382806
20.  Intra- and interfamily phenotypic diversity in pain syndromes associated with a gain-of-function variant of NaV1.7 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:92.
Sodium channel NaV1.7 is preferentially expressed within dorsal root ganglia (DRG), trigeminal ganglia and sympathetic ganglion neurons and their fine-diamter axons, where it acts as a threshold channel, amplifying stimuli such as generator potentials in nociceptors. Gain-of-function mutations and variants (single amino acid substitutions) of NaV1.7 have been linked to three pain syndromes: Inherited Erythromelalgia (IEM), Paroxysmal Extreme Pain Disorder (PEPD), and Small Fiber Neuropathy (SFN). IEM is characterized clinically by burning pain and redness that is usually focused on the distal extremities, precipitated by mild warmth and relieved by cooling, and is caused by mutations that hyperpolarize activation, slow deactivation, and enhance the channel ramp response. PEPD is characterized by perirectal, periocular or perimandibular pain, often triggered by defecation or lower body stimulation, and is caused by mutations that severely impair fast-inactivation. SFN presents a clinical picture dominated by neuropathic pain and autonomic symptoms; gain-of-function variants have been reported to be present in approximately 30% of patients with biopsy-confirmed idiopathic SFN, and functional testing has shown altered fast-inactivation, slow-inactivation or resurgent current. In this paper we describe three patients who house the NaV1.7/I228M variant.
We have used clinical assessment of patients, quantitative sensory testing and skin biopsy to study these patients, including two siblings in one family, in whom genomic screening demonstrated the I228M NaV1.7 variant. Electrophysiology (voltage-clamp and current-clamp) was used to test functional effects of the variant channel.
We report three different clinical presentations of the I228M NaV1.7 variant: presentation with severe facial pain, presentation with distal (feet, hands) pain, and presentation with scalp discomfort in three patients housing this NaV1.7 variant, two of which are from a single family. We also demonstrate that the NaV1.7/I228M variant impairs slow-inactivation, and produces hyperexcitability in both trigeminal ganglion and DRG neurons.
Our results demonstrate intra- and interfamily phenotypic diversity in pain syndromes produced by a gain-of-function variant of NaV1.7.
PMCID: PMC3248882  PMID: 22136189
21.  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
22.  Inhibition of voltage-gated Na+ currents in sensory neurones by the sea anemone toxin APETx2 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2012;165(7):2167-2177.
APETx2, a toxin from the sea anemone Anthropleura elegantissima, inhibits acid-sensing ion channel 3 (ASIC3)-containing homo- and heterotrimeric channels with IC50 values < 100 nM and 0.1–2 µM respectively. ASIC3 channels mediate acute acid-induced and inflammatory pain response and APETx2 has been used as a selective pharmacological tool in animal studies. Toxins from sea anemones also modulate voltage-gated Na+ channel (Nav) function. Here we tested the effects of APETx2 on Nav function in sensory neurones.
Effects of APETx2 on Nav function were studied in rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurones by whole-cell patch clamp.
APETx2 inhibited the tetrodotoxin (TTX)-resistant Nav 1.8 currents of DRG neurones (IC50, 2.6 µM). TTX-sensitive currents were less inhibited. The inhibition of Nav 1.8 currents was due to a rightward shift in the voltage dependence of activation and a reduction of the maximal macroscopic conductance. The inhibition of Nav 1.8 currents by APETx2 was confirmed with cloned channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes. In current-clamp experiments in DRG neurones, the number of action potentials induced by injection of a current ramp was reduced by APETx2.
APETx2 inhibited Nav 1.8 channels, in addition to ASIC3 channels, at concentrations used in in vivo studies. The limited specificity of this toxin should be taken into account when using APETx2 as a pharmacological tool. Its dual action will be an advantage for the use of APETx2 or its derivatives as analgesic drugs.
PMCID: PMC3413854  PMID: 21943094
APETx2; ASIC; Nav 1.8; peptide toxin; DRG; inflammatory pain; acid-induced pain; sea anemone toxins
23.  Neuropathic Nav1.3-mediated sensitization to P2X activation is regulated by protein kinase C 
Molecular Pain  2011;7:14.
Increased neuronal excitability and spontaneous firing are hallmark characteristics of injured sensory neurons. Changes in expression of various voltage-gated Na+ channels (VGSCs) have been observed under neuropathic conditions and there is evidence for the involvement of protein kinase C (PKC) in sensory hyperexcitability. Here we demonstrate the contribution of PKC to P2X-evoked VGSC activation in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in neuropathic conditions.
Using the spinal nerve ligation (SNL) model of neuropathic pain and whole-cell patch clamp recordings of dissociated DRG neurons, we examined changes in excitability of sensory neurons after nerve injury and observed that P2X3 purinoceptor-mediated currents induced by α,β-meATP triggered activation of TTX-sensitive VGSCs in neuropathic nociceptors only. Treatment of neuropathic DRGs with the PKC blocker staurosporine or calphostin C decreased the α,β-meATP-induced Na+ channels activity and reversed neuronal hypersensitivity. In current clamp mode, α,β-meATP was able to evoke action-potentials more frequently in neuropathic neurons than in controls. Pretreatment with calphostin C significantly decreased the proportion of sensitized neurons that generated action potentials in response to α,β-meATP. Recordings measuring VGSC activity in neuropathic neurons show significant change in amplitude and voltage dependence of sodium currents. In situ hybridization data indicate a dramatic increase in expression of embryonic Nav1.3 channels in neuropathic DRG neurons. In a CHO cell line stably expressing the Nav1.3 subunit, PKC inhibition caused both a significant shift in voltage-dependence of the channel in the depolarizing direction and a decrease in current amplitude.
Neuropathic injury causes primary sensory neurons to become hyperexcitable to ATP-evoked P2X receptor-mediated depolarization, a phenotypic switch sensitive to PKC modulation and mediated by increased activity of TTX-sensitive VGSCs. Upregulation in VGSC activity after injury is likely mediated by increased expression of the Nav1.3 subunit, and the function of the Nav1.3 channel is regulated by PKC.
PMCID: PMC3050763  PMID: 21314936
24.  Sodium channels and mammalian sensory mechanotransduction 
Molecular Pain  2012;8:21.
Members of the degenerin/epithelial (DEG/ENaC) sodium channel family are mechanosensors in C elegans, and Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 voltage-gated sodium channel knockout mice have major deficits in mechanosensation. β and γENaC sodium channel subunits are present with acid sensing ion channels (ASICs) in mammalian sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). The extent to which epithelial or voltage-gated sodium channels are involved in transduction of mechanical stimuli is unclear.
Here we show that deleting β and γENaC sodium channels in sensory neurons does not result in mechanosensory behavioural deficits. We had shown previously that Nav1.7/Nav1.8 double knockout mice have major deficits in behavioural responses to noxious mechanical pressure. However, all classes of mechanically activated currents in DRG neurons are unaffected by deletion of the two sodium channels. In contrast, the ability of Nav1.7/Nav1.8 knockout DRG neurons to generate action potentials is compromised with 50% of the small diameter sensory neurons unable to respond to electrical stimulation in vitro.
Behavioural deficits in Nav1.7/Nav1.8 knockout mice reflects a failure of action potential propagation in a mechanosensitive set of sensory neurons rather than a loss of primary transduction currents. DEG/ENaC sodium channels are not mechanosensors in mouse sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3378430  PMID: 22449024
Mechanotransduction; Sodium channels; Pain; Nav1.7; Nav1.8; ENaCs
25.  Sea-anemone toxin ATX-II elicits A-fiber-dependent pain and enhances resurgent and persistent sodium currents in large sensory neurons 
Molecular Pain  2012;8:69.
Gain-of-function mutations of the nociceptive voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7 lead to inherited pain syndromes, such as paroxysmal extreme pain disorder (PEPD). One characteristic of these mutations is slowed fast-inactivation kinetics, which may give rise to resurgent sodium currents. It is long known that toxins from Anemonia sulcata, such as ATX-II, slow fast inactivation and skin contact for example during diving leads to various symptoms such as pain and itch. Here, we investigated if ATX-II induces resurgent currents in sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglion (DRGs) and how this may translate into human sensations.
In large A-fiber related DRGs ATX-II (5 nM) enhances persistent and resurgent sodium currents, but failed to do so in small C-fiber linked DRGs when investigated using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. Resurgent currents are thought to depend on the presence of the sodium channel β4-subunit. Using RT-qPCR experiments, we show that small DRGs express significantly less β4 mRNA than large sensory neurons. With the β4-C-terminus peptide in the pipette solution, it was possible to evoke resurgent currents in small DRGs and in Nav1.7 or Nav1.6 expressing HEK293/N1E115 cells, which were enhanced by the presence of extracellular ATX-II. When injected into the skin of healthy volunteers, ATX-II induces painful and itch-like sensations which were abolished by mechanical nerve block. Increase in superficial blood flow of the skin, measured by Laser doppler imaging is limited to the injection site, so no axon reflex erythema as a correlate for C-fiber activation was detected.
ATX-II enhances persistent and resurgent sodium currents in large diameter DRGs, whereas small DRGs depend on the addition of β4-peptide to the pipette recording solution for ATX-II to affect resurgent currents. Mechanical A-fiber blockade abolishes all ATX-II effects in human skin (e.g. painful and itch-like paraesthesias), suggesting that it mediates its effects mainly via activation of A-fibers.
PMCID: PMC3495684  PMID: 22978421
Patch-clamp; Psychophysics; Differential nerve block; Sensory neurons; Itch; Sodium channels; RT-qPCR; SCN4b

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