SNX-482, a peptide toxin isolated from tarantula venom, has become widely used as an inhibitor of Cav2.3 voltage-gated calcium channels. Unexpectedly, we found that SNX-482 dramatically reduced the A-type potassium current in acutely dissociated dopamine neurons from mouse substantia nigra pars compacta. The inhibition persisted when calcium was replaced by cobalt, showing that it was not secondary to a reduction of calcium influx. Currents from cloned Kv4.3 channels expressed in HEK-293 cells were inhibited by SNX-482 with an IC50 of <3 nm, revealing substantially greater potency than for SNX-482 inhibition of Cav2.3 channels (IC50 20–60 nm). At sub-saturating concentrations, SNX-482 produced a depolarizing shift in the voltage dependence of activation of Kv4.3 channels and slowed activation kinetics. Similar effects were seen on gating of cloned Kv4.2 channels, but the inhibition was less pronounced and required higher toxin concentrations. These results reveal SNX-482 as the most potent inhibitor of Kv4.3 channels yet identified. Because of the effects on both Kv4.3 and Kv4.2 channels, caution is needed when interpreting the effects of SNX-482 on cells and circuits where these channels are present.
Cav2.3; IA; ICK toxin; Kv4.2; Kv4.3; tarantula toxin
Kv2 family “delayed-rectifier” potassium channels are widely expressed in mammalian neurons. Kv2 channels activate relatively slowly and their contribution to action potential repolarization under physiological conditions has been unclear. We explored the function of Kv2 channels using a Kv2-selective blocker, Guangxitoxin-1E (GxTX-1E). Using acutely isolated neurons, mixed voltage-clamp and current-clamp experiments were done at 37°C to study the physiological kinetics of channel gating and action potentials. In both rat superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neurons and mouse hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, 100 nm GxTX-1E produced near-saturating block of a component of current typically constituting ∼60–80% of the total delayed-rectifier current. GxTX-1E also reduced A-type potassium current (IA), but much more weakly. In SCG neurons, 100 nm GxTX-1E broadened spikes and voltage clamp experiments using action potential waveforms showed that Kv2 channels carry ∼55% of the total outward current during action potential repolarization despite activating relatively late in the spike. In CA1 neurons, 100 nm GxTX-1E broadened spikes evoked from −70 mV, but not −80 mV, likely reflecting a greater role of Kv2 when other potassium channels were partially inactivated at −70 mV. In both CA1 and SCG neurons, inhibition of Kv2 channels produced dramatic depolarization of interspike voltages during repetitive firing. In CA1 neurons and some SCG neurons, this was associated with increased initial firing frequency. In all neurons, inhibition of Kv2 channels depressed maintained firing because neurons entered depolarization block more readily. Therefore, Kv2 channels can either decrease or increase neuronal excitability depending on the time scale of excitation.
activation; deactivation; delayed-rectifier potassium channel; Guangxitoxin; Hodgkin-Huxley kinetics; Kv2
Hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons are normally quiescent but can fire spontaneously when stimulated by muscarinic agonists. In brain slice recordings from mouse CA1 pyramidal neurons, we examined the ionic basis of this activity using interleaved current-clamp and voltage-clamp experiments. Both in control and after muscarinic stimulation, the steady-state current–voltage curve was dominated by inward TTX-sensitive persistent sodium current (INaP) that activated near −75 mV and increased steeply with depolarization. In control, total membrane current was net outward (hyperpolarizing) near −70 mV so that cells had a stable resting potential. Muscarinic stimulation activated a small nonselective cation current so that total membrane current near −70 mV shifted to become barely net inward (depolarizing). The small depolarization triggers regenerative activation of INaP, which then depolarizes the cell from −70 mV to spike threshold. We quantified the relative contributions of INaP, hyperpolarization-activated cation current (Ih), and calcium current to pacemaking by using the cell's own firing as a voltage command along with specific blockers. TTX-sensitive sodium current was substantial throughout the entire interspike interval, increasing as the membrane potential approached threshold, while both Ih and calcium current were minimal. Thus, spontaneous activity is driven primarily by activation of INaP in a positive feedback loop starting near −70 mV and providing increasing inward current to threshold. These results show that the pacemaking “engine” from INaP is an inherent property of CA1 pyramidal neurons that can be engaged or disengaged by small shifts in net membrane current near −70 mV, as by muscarinic stimulation.
Tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive sodium channels carry large transient currents during action potentials and also “persistent” sodium current, a non-inactivating TTX-sensitive current present at subthreshold voltages. We examined gating of subthreshold sodium current in dissociated cerebellar Purkinje neurons and hippocampal CA1 neurons, studied at 37 °C with near-physiological ionic conditions. Unexpectedly, in both cell types small voltage steps at subthreshold voltages activated a substantial component of transient sodium current as well as persistent current. Subthreshold EPSP-like waveforms also activated a large component of transient sodium current, but IPSP-like waveforms engaged primarily persistent sodium current with only a small additional transient component. Activation of transient as well as persistent sodium current at subthreshold voltages produces amplification of EPSPs that is sensitive to the rate of depolarization and can help account for the dependence of spike threshold on depolarization rate, as previously observed in vivo.
CA1 pyramidal neuron; Purkinje neuron; persistent sodium current; IPSP; sodium channel
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of the motor nervous system. We show using multi-electrode array and patch clamp recordings that hyperexcitability detected by clinical neurophysiological studies of ALS patients is recapitulated in induced pluripotent stem cell-derived motor neurons from ALS patients harboring superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), C9orf72 and fused-in-sarcoma mutations. Motor neurons produced from a genetically corrected, but otherwise isogenic, SOD1+/+ stem cell line do not display the hyperexcitability phenotype. SOD1A4V/+ ALS patient-derived motor neurons have reduced delayed-rectifier potassium current amplitudes relative to control-derived motor neurons, a deficit that may underlie their hyperexcitability. The Kv7 channel activator retigabine both blocks the hyperexcitability and improves motor neuron survival in vitro when tested in SOD1 mutant ALS cases. Therefore, electrophysiological characterization of human stem cell-derived neurons can reveal disease-related mechanisms and identify therapeutic candidates.
The peripheral terminals of primary sensory neurons detect histamine and non-histamine itch-provoking ligands through molecularly distinct transduction mechanisms. It remains unclear, however, whether these distinct pruritogens activate the same or different afferent fibers. We utilized a strategy of reversibly silencing specific subsets of murine pruritogen-sensitive sensory axons by targeted delivery of a charged sodium-channel blocker and found that functional blockade of histamine itch did not affect the itch evoked by chloroquine or SLIGRL-NH2, and vice versa. Notably, blocking itch-generating fibers did not reduce pain-associated behavior. However, silencing TRPV1+ or TRPA1+ neurons allowed AITC or capsaicin respectively to evoke itch, implying that certain peripheral afferents may normally indirectly inhibit algogens from eliciting itch. These findings support the presence of functionally distinct sets of itch-generating neurons and suggest that targeted silencing of activated sensory fibers may represent a clinically useful anti-pruritic therapeutic approach for histaminergic and non-histaminergic pruritus.
Specific somatosensations may be processed by different subsets of primary afferents. C-fibers expressing heat-sensitive TRPV1 channels are proposed, for example, to be heat but not mechanical pain detectors. To phenotype in rats the sensory function of TRPV1+ afferents, we rapidly and selectively silenced only their activity, by introducing the membrane-impermeant sodium channel blocker QX-314 into these axons via the TRPV1 channel pore. Using tandem mass spectrometry we show that upon activation with capsaicin, QX-314 selectively accumulates in the cytosol only of TRPV1-expressing cells, and not in control cells. Exposure to QX-314 and capsaicin induces in small DRG neurons a robust sodium current block within 30 s. In sciatic nerves, application of extracellular QX-314 with capsaicin persistently reduces C-fiber but not A-fiber compound action potentials and this effect does not occur in TRPV1−/− mice. Behavioral phenotyping after selectively silencing TRPV1+ sciatic nerve axons by perineural injections of QX-314 and capsaicin reveals deficits in heat and mechanical pressure but not pinprick or light touch perception. The response to intraplantar capsaicin is substantially reduced, as expected. During inflammation, silencing TRPV1+ axons abolishes heat, mechanical, and cold hyperalgesia but tactile and cold allodynia remain following peripheral nerve injury. These results indicate that TRPV1-expressing sensory neurons process particular thermal and mechanical somatosensations, and that the sensory channels activated by mechanical and cold stimuli to produce pain in naive/inflamed rats differ from those in animals after peripheral nerve injury.
The voltage-activated sodium (Nav) channel Nav1.9 is expressed in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons where it is believed to play an important role in nociception. Progress in revealing the functional properties and pharmacological sensitivities of this non-canonical Nav channel has been slow because attempts to express this channel in a heterologous expression system have been unsuccessful. Here, we use a protein engineering approach to dissect the contributions of the four Nav1.9 voltage sensors to channel function and pharmacology. We define individual S3b–S4 paddle motifs within each voltage sensor, and show that they can sense changes in membrane voltage and drive voltage sensor activation when transplanted into voltage-activated potassium channels. We also find that the paddle motifs in Nav1.9 are targeted by animal toxins, and that these toxins alter Nav1.9-mediated currents in DRG neurons. Our results demonstrate that slowly activating and inactivating Nav1.9 channels have functional and pharmacological properties in common with canonical Nav channels, but also show distinctive pharmacological sensitivities that can potentially be exploited for developing novel treatments for pain.
Voltage-dependent sodium channels are the central players in the excitability of neurons, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle. Hundreds of mutations in sodium channels have been associated with human disease, particularly genetic forms of epilepsy, arrhythmias, myotonia, and periodic paralysis. In this issue of the JCI, Jarecki and colleagues present evidence suggesting that many such mutations alter the gating of sodium channels to produce resurgent sodium current, an unusual form of gating in which sodium channels reopen following an action potential, thus promoting the firing of another action potential (see the related article beginning on page 369). The results of this study suggest a widespread pathophysiological role for this mechanism, previously described to occur normally in only a few types of neurons.
We measured the time course of sodium entry during action potentials of mouse central neurons at 37 °C to examine how efficiently sodium entry is coupled to depolarization. In cortical pyramidal neurons, sodium entry was nearly completely confined to the rising phase of the spike: only ~25% more sodium enters than the theoretical minimum necessary for spike depolarization. However, in fast-spiking GABAergic neurons (cerebellar Purkinje cells and cortical interneurons), twice as much sodium enters as the theoretical minimum. The extra entry occurs because sodium channel inactivation is incomplete during the falling phase of the spike. The efficiency of sodium entry in different cell types is primarily a function of action potential shape and not cell type-specific differences in sodium channel kinetics. The narrow spikes of fast-spiking GABAergic neurons result in incomplete inactivation of sodium channels; this reduces metabolic efficiency but likely enhances the ability to fire spikes at high frequency.
We present a simple and effective method for isolating the somatic Na+ current recorded under voltage clamp from neurons in brain slices. The principle is to convert the axon from an active compartment, capable of generating uncontrolled axonal spikes, into a passive structure, by selectively inactivating axonal Na+ channels. Typically, whole cell currents from intact neurons under somatic voltage clamp contain a mixture of Na+ current and axial current caused by escaped axonal spikes. We found that a brief prepulse to voltages near spike threshold evokes the axonal spike, which inactivates axonal but not somatic channels. A subsequent voltage step then evokes only somatic Na+ current from electrotonically proximal sodium channels under good voltage clamp control. Simulations using a neuron compartmental model support the idea that the prepulse effectively inactivates currents from the axon and isolates well-controlled somatic currents. Na+ currents recorded from cortical pyramidal neurons in slices, using the prepulse, were found to have voltage-dependence nearly identical to currents recorded from acutely dissociated pyramidal neurons. In addition, studies in dissociated neurons show that the prepulse has no visible effect on the voltage-dependence and kinetics of Na+ currents elicited by the subsequent voltage step, only decreasing the amplitude of the currents by 10–20%. The technique was effective in several neuronal types in brain slices from neonatal rats and mice, including raphé neurons, cortical pyramidal neurons, inferior olivary neurons, and hypoglossal motoneurons.
Space clamp; voltage clamp; sodium channels; compartmental neuron; brain slices
Dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) fire spontaneously in a pacemaker-like manner. We analyzed the ionic currents that drive pacemaking in dopaminergic VTA neurons, studied in mouse brain slices. Pacemaking was not inhibited by blocking hyperpolarization-activated cation current (Ih) or blocking all calcium current by Mg2+ replacement of Ca2+. Tetrodotoxin (TTX) stopped spontaneous activity and usually resulted in stable resting potentials near −60 mV to −55 mV, 10–15 mV below the action potential threshold. When external sodium was replaced by N-methyl-D-glucamine (NMDG) with TTX present, cells hyperpolarized by an average of −11 mV, suggesting a significant resting sodium conductance not sensitive to TTX. Voltage-clamp experiments using slow (10 mV/s) ramps showed a steady-state, steeply voltage-dependent current blocked by TTX that activates near −60 mV, as well as a sodium “background” current with little voltage-sensitivity, revealed by NMDG replacement for sodium with TTX present. We quantified these two components of sodium current during the pacemaking trajectory using action potential clamp. The initial phase of depolarization, up to about −55 mV, is driven mainly by non-voltage-dependent sodium background current. Above −55 mV, TTX-sensitive voltage-dependent “persistent” Na current helps drive the final phase of depolarization to the spike threshold. Voltage-dependent calcium current is small at all subthreshold voltages. The pacemaking mechanism in VTA neurons differs from that in substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) neurons, where subthreshold calcium current plays a dominant role. In addition, we found that non-voltage-dependent background sodium current is much smaller in SNc neurons than VTA neurons.
spontaneous firing; dopaminergic neurons; VTA
We analyzed ionic currents that regulate pacemaking in dopaminergic neurons of the mouse ventral tegmental area by comparing voltage trajectories during spontaneous firing with ramp-evoked currents in voltage clamp. Most recordings were made in brain slice, with key experiments repeated using acutely dissociated neurons, which gave identical results. During spontaneous firing, net ionic current flowing between spikes was calculated from the time derivative of voltage multiplied by cell capacitance, signal-averaged over many firing cycles to enhance resolution. Net inward interspike current had a distinctive nonmonotonic shape, reaching a minimum (generally <1 pA) between −60 and −55 mV. Under voltage clamp, ramps over subthreshold voltages elicited a time- and voltage-dependent outward current that peaked near −55 mV. This current was undetectable with 5 mV/s ramps and increased steeply with depolarization rate over the range (10 –50 mV/s) typical of natural pacemaking. Ramp-evoked subthreshold current was resistant to α-dendrotoxin, paxilline, apamin, and tetraethylammonium but sensitive to 4-aminopyridine and 0.5 mM Ba2+, consistent with A-type potassium current (IA). Same-cell comparison of currents elicited by various ramp speeds with natural spontaneous depolarization showed how the steep dependence of IA on depolarization rate results in small net inward currents during pacemaking. These results reveal a mechanism in which subthreshold IA is near zero at steady state, but is engaged at depolarization rates >10 mV/s to act as a powerful, supralinear feedback element. This feedback mechanism explains how net ionic current can be constrained to <1–2 pA but reliably inward, thus enabling slow, regular firing.
IA; IK; 4-aminopyridine; spontaneous firing; A-type; dopaminergic neurons; VTA
Transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 channels integrate nociceptive stimuli and are predominantly expressed by unmyelinated C-fiber nociceptors, but not low-threshold mechanoreceptive sensory or motor fibers. A recent report showed that the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 channel agonist capsaicin allows a hydrophilic quaternary ammonium derivative of lidocaine, QX-314, to selectively block C fibers without motor block. The authors tested whether a similar differential block would be produced using amphipathicN-methyl amitriptyline, amitriptyline, bupivacaine, or lidocaine, either alone or together with 0.05% capsaicin, in a rat sciatic nerve block model.
Rats (n = 8/group) were anesthetized with sevoflurane, and 0.2 ml of drug was injected either alone or with capsaicin (simultaneously or 10 min later) next to the sciatic nerve in the sciatic notch. Motor function was assessed by the extensor postural thrust. Nociception was evaluated by the nocifensive withdrawal reflex and vocalization evoked by pinch of a skin fold over the lateral metatarsus (cutaneous pain) with a serrated forceps.
N-Methyl amitriptyline, amitriptyline, bupivacaine, or lidocaine, followed by injection of capsaicin 10 min later, each elicited a predominantly nociceptive-specific blockade. In comparison, simultaneous application of each local anesthetic with capsaicin did not elicit a clinically significant differential block, with the exception of N-methyl amitriptyline.
Both tertiary amine local anesthetics and their quaternary ammonium derivatives can elicit a predominantly sensory/nociceptor selective block when followed by injection of capsaicin. The combined application of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 channel agonists and various local anesthetics or their quaternary ammonium derivatives is an appealing strategy to achieve a long-lasting differential block in regional analgesia.
Nociceptive-selective local anesthesia is produced by entry of the permanently charged lidocaine-derivative QX-314 into nociceptors when coadministered with capsaicin, a transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel agonist. However, the pain evoked by capsaicin before establishment of the QX-314–mediated block would limit clinical utility. Because TRPV1 channels are also activated by lidocaine, the authors tested whether lidocaine can substitute for capsaicin to introduce QX-314 into nociceptors through TRPV1 channels and produce selective analgesia.
Lidocaine (0.5% [17.5 mm], 1% [35 mm], and 2% [70 mm]) alone, QX-314 (0.2% [5.8 mm]) alone, and a combination of the two were injected subcutaneously and adjacent to the sciatic nerve in rats and mice. Mechanical and thermal responsiveness were measured, as was motor block.
Coapplication of 0.2% QX-314 with lidocaine prolonged the nociceptive block relative to lidocaine alone, an effect attenuated in TRPV1 knockout mice. The 0.2% QX-314 alone had no effect when injected intraplantary or perineurally, and it produced only weak short-lasting inhibition of the cutaneous trunci muscle reflex. Perisciatic nerve injection of lidocaine with QX-314 produced a differential nociceptive block much longer than the transient motor block, lasting 2 h (for 1% lidocaine) to 9 h (2% lidocaine). Triple application of lidocaine, QX-314, and capsaicin further increased the duration of the differential block.
Coapplication of lidocaine and its quaternary derivative QX-314 produces a long-lasting, predominantly nociceptor-selective block, likely by facilitating QX-314 entry through TRPV1 channels. Delivery of QX-314 into nociceptors by using lidocaine instead of capsaicin produces sustained regional analgesia without nocifensive behavior.
A cardinal feature of inflammation is heightened pain sensitivity at the site of the inflamed tissue. This results from the local release by immune and injured cells of nociceptor sensitizers, including prostaglandin E2, bradykinin, and nerve growth factor, that reduce the threshold and increase the excitability of the peripheral terminals of nociceptors so that they now respond to innocuous stimuli: the phenomenon of peripheral sensitization. We show here that the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β), in addition to producing inflammation and inducing synthesis of several nociceptor sensitizers, also rapidly and directly activates nociceptors to generate action potentials and induce pain hypersensitivity. IL-1β acts in a p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAP kinase)-dependent manner, to increase the excitability of nociceptors by relieving resting slow inactivation of tetrodotoxin-resistant voltage-gated sodium channels and also enhances persistent TTX-resistant current near threshold. By acting as an IL-1β sensor, nociceptors can directly signal the presence of ongoing tissue inflammation.
nociception; inflammation; interleukin; excitability; sodium channel; dorsal root ganglion
A number of peptide toxins from venoms of spiders and cone snails are high affinity ligands for voltage-gated calcium channels and are useful tools for studying calcium channel function and structure. Using whole-cell recordings from rat sympathetic ganglion and cerebellar Purkinje neurons, we studied toxins that target neuronal N-type (CaV2.2) and P-type (CaV2.1) calcium channels. We asked whether different toxins targeting the same channels bind to the same or different sites on the channel. Five toxins (ω-conotoxin-GVIA, ω-conotoxin MVIIC, ω-agatoxin-IIIA, ω-grammotoxin-SIA, and ω-agatoxin-IVA) were applied in pairwise combinations to either N- or P-type channels. Differences in the characteristics of inhibition, including voltage dependence, reversal kinetics, and fractional inhibition of current, were used to detect additive or mutually occlusive effects of toxins. Results suggest at least two distinct toxin binding sites on the N-type channel and three on the P-type channel. On N-type channels, results are consistent with blockade of the channel pore by ω-CgTx-GVIA, ω-Aga-IIIA, and ω-CTx-MVIIC, whereas grammotoxin likely binds to a separate region coupled to channel gating. ω-Aga-IIIA produces partial channel block by decreasing single-channel conductance. On P-type channels, ω-CTx-MVIIC and ω-Aga-IIIA both likely bind near the mouth of the pore. ω-Aga-IVA and grammotoxin each bind to distinct regions associated with channel gating that do not overlap with the binding region of pore blockers. For both N- and P-type channels, ω-CTx-MVIIC binding produces complete channel block, but is prevented by previous partial channel block by ω-Aga-IIIA, suggesting that ω-CTx-MVIIC binds closer to the external mouth of the pore than does ω-Aga-IIIA.
conotoxin; agatoxin; grammotoxin; venom; Purkinje