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1.  Nerve injury induces robust allodynia and ectopic discharges in Nav1.3 null mutant mice 
Molecular Pain  2006;2:33.
Changes in sodium channel activity and neuronal hyperexcitability contribute to neuropathic pain, a major clinical problem. There is strong evidence that the re-expression of the embryonic voltage-gated sodium channel subunit Nav1.3 underlies neuronal hyperexcitability and neuropathic pain.
Here we show that acute and inflammatory pain behaviour is unchanged in global Nav1.3 mutant mice. Surprisingly, neuropathic pain also developed normally in the Nav1.3 mutant mouse. To rule out any genetic compensation mechanisms that may have masked the phenotype, we investigated neuropathic pain in two conditional Nav1.3 mutant mouse lines. We used Nav1.8-Cre mice to delete Nav1.3 in nociceptors at E14 and NFH-Cre mice to delete Nav1.3 throughout the nervous system postnatally. Again normal levels of neuropathic pain developed after nerve injury in both lines. Furthermore, ectopic discharges from damaged nerves were unaffected by the absence of Nav1.3 in global knock-out mice. Our data demonstrate that Nav1.3 is neither necessary nor sufficient for the development of nerve-injury related pain.
PMCID: PMC1630424  PMID: 17052333
2.  Post-translational modifications of voltage-gated sodium channels in chronic pain syndromes 
In the peripheral sensory nervous system the neuronal expression of voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) is very important for the transmission of nociceptive information since they give rise to the upstroke of the action potential (AP). Navs are composed of nine different isoforms with distinct biophysical properties. Studying the mutations associated with the increase or absence of pain sensitivity in humans, as well as other expression studies, have highlighted Nav1.7, Nav1.8, and Nav1.9 as being the most important contributors to the control of nociceptive neuronal electrogenesis. Modulating their expression and/or function can impact the shape of the AP and consequently modify nociceptive transmission, a process that is observed in persistent pain conditions. Post-translational modification (PTM) of Navs is a well-known process that modifies their expression and function. In chronic pain syndromes, the release of inflammatory molecules into the direct environment of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) sensory neurons leads to an abnormal activation of enzymes that induce Navs PTM. The addition of small molecules, i.e., peptides, phosphoryl groups, ubiquitin moieties and/or carbohydrates, can modify the function of Navs in two different ways: via direct physical interference with Nav gating, or via the control of Nav trafficking. Both mechanisms have a profound impact on neuronal excitability. In this review we will discuss the role of Protein Kinase A, B, and C, Mitogen Activated Protein Kinases and Ca++/Calmodulin-dependent Kinase II in peripheral chronic pain syndromes. We will also discuss more recent findings that the ubiquitination of Nav1.7 by Nedd4-2 and the effect of methylglyoxal on Nav1.8 are also implicated in the development of experimental neuropathic pain. We will address the potential roles of other PTMs in chronic pain and highlight the need for further investigation of PTMs of Navs in order to develop new pharmacological tools to alleviate pain.
PMCID: PMC4633509  PMID: 26594175
voltage-gated sodium channels; post-translational modification; chronic pain; hyperexcitability; nociceptive neurons
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Nav 1.8-null mice show stimulus-dependent deficits in spinal neuronal activity 
Molecular Pain  2006;2:5.
The voltage gated sodium channel Nav 1.8 has a highly restricted expression pattern to predominantly nociceptive peripheral sensory neurones. Behaviourally Nav 1.8-null mice show an increased acute pain threshold to noxious mechanical pressure and also deficits in inflammatory and visceral, but not neuropathic pain. Here we have made in vivo electrophysiology recordings of dorsal horn neurones in intact anaesthetised Nav 1.8-null mice, in response to a wide range of stimuli to further the understanding of the functional roles of Nav 1.8 in pain transmission from the periphery to the spinal cord.
Nav 1.8-null mice showed marked deficits in the coding by dorsal horn neurones to mechanical, but not thermal, -evoked responses over the non-noxious and noxious range compared to littermate controls. Additionally, responses evoked to other stimulus modalities were also significantly reduced in Nav 1.8-null mice where the reduction observed to pinch > brush. The occurrence of ongoing spontaneous neuronal activity was significantly less in mice lacking Nav 1.8 compared to control. No difference was observed between groups in the evoked activity to electrical activity of the peripheral receptive field.
This study demonstrates that deletion of the sodium channel Nav 1.8 results in stimulus-dependent deficits in the dorsal horn neuronal coding to mechanical, but not thermal stimuli applied to the neuronal peripheral receptive field. This implies that Nav 1.8 is either responsible for, or associated with proteins involved in mechanosensation.
PMCID: PMC1403745  PMID: 16478543
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  Nav1.9 Channel Contributes to Mechanical and Heat Pain Hypersensitivity Induced by Subacute and Chronic Inflammation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23083.
Inflammation is known to be responsible for the sensitization of peripheral sensory neurons, leading to spontaneous pain and invalidating pain hypersensitivity. Given its role in regulating neuronal excitability, the voltage-gated Nav1.9 channel is a potential target for the treatment of pathological pain, but its implication in inflammatory pain is yet not fully described. In the present study, we examined the role of the Nav1.9 channel in acute, subacute and chronic inflammatory pain using Nav1.9-null mice and Nav1.9 knock-down rats. In mice we found that, although the Nav1.9 channel does not contribute to basal pain thresholds, it plays an important role in heat pain hypersensitivity induced by subacute paw inflammation (intraplantar carrageenan) and chronic ankle inflammation (complete Freund's adjuvant-induced monoarthritis). We showed for the first time that Nav1.9 also contributes to mechanical hypersensitivity in both models, as assessed using von Frey and dynamic weight bearing tests. Consistently, antisense-based Nav1.9 gene silencing in rats reduced carrageenan-induced heat and mechanical pain hypersensitivity. While no changes in Nav1.9 mRNA levels were detected in dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) during subacute and chronic inflammation, a significant increase in Nav1.9 immunoreactivity was observed in ipsilateral DRGs 24 hours following carrageenan injection. This was correlated with an increase in Nav1.9 immunolabeling in nerve fibers surrounding the inflamed area. No change in Nav1.9 current density could be detected in the soma of retrolabeled DRG neurons innervating inflamed tissues, suggesting that newly produced channels may be non-functional at this level and rather contribute to the observed increase in axonal transport. Our results provide evidence that Nav1.9 plays a crucial role in the generation of heat and mechanical pain hypersensitivity, both in subacute and chronic inflammatory pain models, and bring new elements for the understanding of its regulation in those models.
PMCID: PMC3155549  PMID: 21857998
12.  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
13.  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
14.  Correlation of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 sodium channel expression with neuropathic pain in human subjects with lingual nerve neuromas 
Molecular Pain  2013;9:52.
Voltage-gated sodium channels Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are expressed preferentially in small diameter sensory neurons, and are thought to play a role in the generation of ectopic activity in neuronal cell bodies and/or their axons following peripheral nerve injury. The expression of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 has been quantified in human lingual nerves that have been previously injured inadvertently during lower third molar removal, and any correlation between the expression of these ion channels and the presence or absence of dysaesthesia investigated.
Immunohistochemical processing and quantitative image analysis revealed that Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 were expressed in human lingual nerve neuromas from patients with or without symptoms of dysaesthesia. The level of Nav1.8 expression was significantly higher in patients reporting pain compared with no pain, and a significant positive correlation was observed between levels of Nav1.8 expression and VAS scores for the symptom of tingling. No significant differences were recorded in the level of expression of Nav1.9 between patients with or without pain.
These results demonstrate that Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 are present in human lingual nerve neuromas, with significant correlations between the level of expression of Nav1.8 and symptoms of pain. These data provide further evidence that changes in expression of Nav1.8 are important in the development and/or maintenance of nerve injury-induced pain, and suggest that Nav1.8 may be a potential therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC4016210  PMID: 24144460
Lingual nerve; Nerve injury; Trigeminal; Neuropathic pain; Dysaesthesia; Tingling; Nav1.8; Nav1.9
15.  Neurotrophin-3 significantly reduces sodium channel expression linked to neuropathic pain states 
Experimental neurology  2008;213(2):303-314.
Neuropathic pain resulting from chronic constriction injury (CCI) is critically linked to sensitization of peripheral nociceptors. Voltage gated sodium channels are major contributors to this state and their expression can be upregulated by nerve growth factor (NGF). We have previously demonstrated that neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) acts antagonistically to NGF in modulation of aspects of CCI-induced changes in trkA-associated nociceptor phenotype and thermal hyperalgesia. Thus, we hypothesized that exposure of neurons to increased levels of NT-3 would reduce expression of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 in DRG neurons subject to CCI. In adult male rats, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 mRNAs are expressed at high levels in predominantly small to medium size neurons. One week following CCI, there is reduced incidence of neurons expressing detectable Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 mRNA, but without a significant decline in mean level of neuronal expression, and similar findings observed immunohistochemically. There is also increased accumulation/redistribution of channel protein in the nerve most apparent proximal to the first constriction site. Intrathecal infusion of NT-3 significantly attenuates neuronal expression of Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 mRNA contralateral and most notably, ipsilateral to CCI, with a similar impact on relative protein expression at the level of the neuron and constricted nerve. We also observe reduced expression of the common neurotrophin receptor p75 in response to CCI that is not reversed by NT-3 in small to medium sized neurons and may confer an enhanced ability of NT-3 to signal via trkA, as has been previously shown in other cell types. These findings are consistent with an analgesic role for NT-3.
PMCID: PMC2751854  PMID: 18601922
Nav1.8; Nav1.9; DRG; sciatic nerve; CCI; nociceptor; nerve growth factor
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Regulation of membrane excitability: a convergence on voltage-gated sodium conductance 
Molecular Neurobiology  2014;51:57-67.
The voltage-gated sodium channel (Nav) plays a key role in regulation of neuronal excitability. Aberrant regulation of Nav expression and/or function can result in an imbalance in neuronal activity which can progress to epilepsy. Regulation of Nav activity is achieved by coordination of a multitude of mechanisms including RNA alternative splicing and translational repression. Understanding of these regulatory mechanisms is complicated by extensive genetic redundancy: the mammalian genome encodes ten Navs. By contrast, the genome of the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, contains just one Nav homologue, encoded by paralytic (DmNav). Analysis of splicing in DmNav shows variants exhibit distinct gating properties including varying magnitudes of persistent sodium current (INaP). Splicing by Pasilla, an identified RNA splicing factor, alters INaP magnitude as part of an activity-dependent mechanism. Enhanced INaP promotes membrane hyperexcitability that is associated with seizure-like behaviour in Drosophila. Nova-2, a mammalian Pasilla homologue, has also been linked to splicing of Navs and, moreover, mouse gene knockouts display seizure-like behaviour.
Expression level of Navs is also regulated through a mechanism of translational repression in both flies and mammals. The translational repressor Pumilio (Pum) can bind to Nav transcripts and repress the normal process of translation, thus regulating sodium current (INa) density in neurons. Pum2-deficient mice exhibit spontaneous EEG abnormalities. Taken together, aberrant regulation of Nav function and/or expression is often epileptogenic. As such, a better understanding of regulation of membrane excitability through RNA alternative splicing and translational repression of Navs should provide new leads to treat epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC4309913  PMID: 24677068
Excitability; Drosophila; Epilepsy; Paralytic; Splicing; Translational repression
19.  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
20.  Sodium channel Nav1.7 immunoreactivity in painful human dental pulp and burning mouth syndrome 
BMC Neuroscience  2010;11:71.
Voltage gated sodium channels Nav1.7 are involved in nociceptor nerve action potentials and are known to affect pain sensitivity in clinical genetic disorders.
Aims and Objectives
To study Nav1.7 levels in dental pulpitis pain, an inflammatory condition, and burning mouth syndrome (BMS), considered a neuropathic orofacial pain disorder.
Two groups of patients were recruited for this study. One group consisted of patients with dental pulpitis pain (n = 5) and controls (n = 12), and the other patients with BMS (n = 7) and controls (n = 10). BMS patients were diagnosed according to the International Association for the Study of Pain criteria; a pain history was collected, including the visual analogue scale (VAS). Immunohistochemistry with visual intensity and computer image analysis were used to evaluate levels of Nav1.7 in dental pulp tissue samples from the dental pulpitis group, and tongue biopsies from the BMS group.
There was a significantly increased visual intensity score for Nav1.7 in nerve fibres in the painful dental pulp specimens, compared to controls. Image analysis showed a trend for an increase of the Nav1.7 immunoreactive % area in the painful pulp group, but this was not statistically significant. When expressed as a ratio of the neurofilament % area, there was a strong trend for an increase of Nav1.7 in the painful pulp group. Nav1.7 immunoreactive fibres were seen in abundance in the sub-mucosal layer of tongue biopsies, with no significant difference between BMS and controls.
Nav1.7 sodium channel may play a significant role in inflammatory dental pain. Clinical trials with selective Nav1.7 channel blockers should prioritise dental pulp pain rather than BMS.
PMCID: PMC2890014  PMID: 20529324
21.  Voltage-gated sodium channels were differentially expressed in human normal prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer cells 
Oncology Letters  2014;8(1):345-350.
Voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) are expressed not only in excitable cells but also in numerous metastatic cells, particularly in certain types of cancer cells. In some types of cancer, including prostate cancer, the expression of VGSCs is associated with cancer migration, invasion and metastasis in vivo. However, the detailed expression profiles of VGSC α subunits in normal human prostate, in prostatic hyperplasia and prostatic cancer remain controversial. In the present study, quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to systematically detect all subtypes of VGSC α subunits in normal human prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer cells. The expression profile of VGSC α subunits was observed to differ between these cell types. Nav1.5 was the major isoform expressed in normal human prostate tissue, while Nav1.5 and Nav1.2 were the predominant isoforms in BPH tissue. However, in PC-3 and LNCaP cells, two typical prostate cancer cell lines, Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 were abundantly expressed. By comparing the relative expression levels of Nav1.5, Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 in these cells, the mRNA levels of Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 were identified to be 6- to 27-fold higher in PC-3 and LNCaP cells than in either normal or BPH samples (P<0.05); however, Nav1.5 mRNA levels were relatively lower compared with those of Nav1.6 or Nav1.7 in all cells analyzed. To confirm whether Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 expression in cancer cells was functional, a patch-clamp technique was used to record whole-cell currents. A tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium current was successfully recorded in PC-3 cells, but not in LNCaP cells. It was concluded that although all types of VGSC α subunits exhibited low expression levels in normal prostate and BPH cells, both Nav1.6 and Nav1.7 were significantly upregulated in the prostate cancer cell lines, suggesting these subtypes may be potential diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for certain types of prostate cancer in humans.
PMCID: PMC4063587  PMID: 24959274
voltage-gated sodium channel; mRNA; prostate; cancer; benign prostatic hyperplasia
22.  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)
23.  Single-cell analysis of sodium channel expression in dorsal root ganglion neurons 
Sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) express multiple voltage-gated sodium (Na) channels that substantially differ in gating kinetics and pharmacology. Small-diameter (<25 µm) neurons isolated from the rat DRG express a combination of fast tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-S) and slow TTX-resistant (TTX-R) Na currents while large-diameter neurons (>30 µm) predominately express fast TTX-S Na current. Na channel expression was further investigated using single-cell RT-PCR to measure the transcripts present in individually harvested DRG neurons. Consistent with cellular electrophysiology, the small neurons expressed transcripts encoding for both TTX-S (Nav1.1, Nav1.2, Nav1.6, Nav1.7) and TTX-R (Nav1.8, Nav1.9) Na channels. Nav1.7, Nav1.8 and Nav1.9 were the predominant Na channels expressed in the small neurons. The large neurons highly expressed TTX-S isoforms (Nav1.1, Nav1.6, Nav1.7) while TTX-R channels were present at comparatively low levels. A unique subpopulation of the large neurons was identified that expressed TTX-R Na current and high levels of Nav1.8 transcript. DRG neurons also displayed substantial differences in the expression of neurofilaments (NF200, peripherin) and Necl-1, a neuronal adhesion molecule involved in myelination. The preferential expression of NF200 and Necl-1 suggests that large-diameter neurons give rise to thick myelinated axons. Small-diameter neurons expressed peripherin, but reduced levels of NF200 and Necl-1, a pattern more consistent with thin unmyelinated axons. Single-cell analysis of Na channel transcripts indicates that TTX-S and TTX-R Na channels are differentially expressed in large myelinated (Nav1.1, Nav1.6, Nav1.7) and small unmyelinated (Nav1.7, Nav1.8, Nav1.9) sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC3005531  PMID: 20816971
Sodium channel; dorsal root ganglia; single-cell RT-PCR; Necl-1; NF200; peripherin
24.  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
25.  Localization of Sodium Channel Subtypes in Mouse Ventricular Myocytes Using Quantitative Immunocytochemistry 
Journal of molecular and cellular cardiology  2013;64:10.1016/j.yjmcc.2013.08.004.
Voltage-gated sodium channels are responsible for the rising phase of the action potential in cardiac muscle. Previously, both TTX-sensitive neuronal sodium channels (NaV1.1, NaV1.2, NaV1.3, NaV1.4 and NaV1.6) and the TTX-resistant cardiac sodium channel (NaV1.5) have been detected in cardiac myocytes, but relative levels of protein expression of the isoforms were not determined. Using a quantitative approach, we analyzed z-series of confocal microscopy images from individual mouse myocytes stained with either anti-NaV1.1, anti-NaV1.2, anti-NaV1.3, anti-NaV1.4, anti-NaV1.5, or anti-NaV1.6 antibodies and calculated the relative intensity of staining for these sodium channel isoforms. Our results indicate that the TTX-sensitive channels represented approximately 23% of the total channels, whereas the TTX-resistant NaV1.5 channel represented 77% of the total channel staining in mouse ventricular myocytes. These ratios are consistent with previous electrophysiological studies in mouse ventricular myocytes. NaV1.5 was located at the cell surface, with high density at the intercalated disc, but was absent from the transverse (t)-tubular system, suggesting that these channels support surface conduction and inter-myocyte transmission. Low-level cell surface staining of NaV1.4 and NaV1.6 channels suggest a minor role in surface excitation and conduction. Conversely, NaV1.1 and NaV1.3 channels are localized to the t-tubules and are likely to support t-tubular transmission of the action potential to the myocyte interior. This quantitative immunocytochemical approach for assessing sodium channel density and localization provides a more precise view of the relative importance and possible roles of these individual sodium channel protein isoforms in mouse ventricular myocytes and may be applicable to other species and cardiac tissue types.
PMCID: PMC3851329  PMID: 23982034

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