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1.  Touch sense 
Channels  2012;6(4):234-245.
Cutaneous mechanoreceptors are localized in the various layers of the skin where they detect a wide range of mechanical stimuli, including light brush, stretch, vibration and noxious pressure. This variety of stimuli is matched by a diverse array of specialized mechanoreceptors that respond to cutaneous deformation in a specific way and relay these stimuli to higher brain structures. Studies across mechanoreceptors and genetically tractable sensory nerve endings are beginning to uncover touch sensation mechanisms. Work in this field has provided researchers with a more thorough understanding of the circuit organization underlying the perception of touch. Novel ion channels have emerged as candidates for transduction molecules and properties of mechanically gated currents improved our understanding of the mechanisms of adaptation to tactile stimuli. This review highlights the progress made in characterizing functional properties of mechanoreceptors in hairy and glabrous skin and ion channels that detect mechanical inputs and shape mechanoreceptor adaptation.
PMCID: PMC3508902  PMID: 23146937
mechanoreceptor; mechanosensitive channel; pain; skin; somatosensory system; touch
2.  The Nav1.9 channel regulates colonic motility in mice 
The colonic migrating motor complex (CMMC) is a major pattern of motility that is entirely generated and organized by the enteric nervous system. We have previously demonstrated that the Nav1.9 channel underlies a tetrodotoxin-resistant sodium current which modulates the excitability of enteric neurons. The aim of this study was to observe the effect of loss of the Nav1.9 channel in enteric neurons on mouse colonic motility in vitro. The mechanical activity of the circular muscle was simultaneously recorded from three sites, namely, proximal, mid- and distal, along the whole colon of male, age-matched wild-type and Nav1.9 null mice. Spontaneous CMMCs were observed in all preparations. The mean frequency of CMMCs was significantly higher in the Nav1.9 null mice (one every 2.87 ± 0.1 min compared to one every 3.96 ± 0.23 min in the wild type). The mean duration of CMMCs was shorter and the mean area-under-contraction was larger in the Nav1.9 null mice compared to the wild type. In addition, CMMCs propagated preferentially in an aboral direction in the Nav1.9 null mice. Our study demonstrates that CMMCs do occur in mice lacking the Nav1.9 channel, but their characteristics are significantly different from controls. Up to now, the Nav1.9 channel was mainly associated with nociceptive neurons and involved in their hyperexcitability after inflammation. Our result shows for the first time a role for the Nav1.9 channel in a complex colonic motor pattern.
PMCID: PMC3625748  PMID: 23596386
Nav1.9 channel; migrating motor complex; colon; enteric; neuron
3.  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
4.  A Single Amino Acid Residue Constitutes the Third Dimerization Domain Essential for the Assembly and Function of the Tetrameric Polycystin-2 (TRPP2) Channel* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(21):18994-19000.
Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), the most common inherited cause of kidney failure, is caused by mutations in either PKD1 (85%) or PKD2 (15%). The PKD2 protein, polycystin-2 (PC2 or TRPP2), is a member of the transient receptor potential (TRP) superfamily and functions as a nonselective calcium channel. PC2 has been found to form oligomers in native tissues, suggesting that similar to other TRP channels, it may form functional homo- or heterotetramers with other TRP subunits. We have recently demonstrated that the homodimerization of PC2 is mediated by both N-terminal and C-terminal domains, and it is known that PC2 can heterodimerize with PC1, TRPC1, and TRPV4. In this paper, we report that a single cysteine residue, Cys632, mutated in a known PKD2 pedigree, constitutes the third dimerization domain for PC2. PC2 truncation mutants lacking both N and C termini could still dimerize under nonreducing conditions. Mutation of Cys632 alone abolished dimerization in these mutants, indicating that it was the critical residue mediating disulfide bond formation between PC2 monomers. Co-expression of C632A PC2 mutants with wild-type PC2 channels reduced ATP-sensitive endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ release in HEK293 cells. The combination of C632A and mutations disrupting the C-terminal coiled-coil domain (Val846, Ile853, Ile860, Leu867 or 4M) nearly abolished dimer formation and ATP-dependent Ca2+ release. However, unlike the 4M PC2 mutant, a C632A mutant could still heterodimerize with polycystin-1 (PC1). Our results indicate that PC2 homodimerization is regulated by three distinct domains and that these events regulate formation of the tetrameric PC2 channel.
PMCID: PMC3099714  PMID: 21474446
Calcium; Human Genetics; Kidney; Mutant; TRP Channels; ADPKD; TRPP2; Polycystic Kidney Disease; Polycystin-2
5.  Neurotransmitter modulation of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (SK) channels by regulation of Ca2+ gating 
Neuron  2008;59(3):439-449.
Small-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (SK) channels are widely expressed in neuronal tissues where they underlie post-spike hyperpolarizations, regulate spike-frequency adaptation and shape synaptic responses. SK channels constitutively interact with calmodulin (CaM), which serves as Ca2+ sensor, and with protein kinase CK2 and protein phosphatase 2A, which modulate their Ca2+ gating. By recording coupled activities of Ca2+ and SK2 channels, we showed that SK2 channels can be inhibited by neurotransmitters independently of changes in the activity of the priming Ca2+ channels. This inhibition involves SK2-associated CK2 and results from a 3-fold reduction in the steady-state Ca2+ sensitivity of channel gating. CK2 phosphorylated SK2-bound CaM but not KCNQ2-bound CaM, thereby selectively regulating Ca2+ gating of SK2 channels. We extended these observations to sensory neurons by showing that noradrenaline inhibits SK current and enhances signaling of primary afferent neurons in a CK2- dependent fashion. Hence, neurotransmitter-initiated signaling cascades can dynamically regulate Ca2+ sensitivity of SK channels and directly influence somatic excitability.
PMCID: PMC2651825  PMID: 18701069
6.  NGF Inhibits M/KCNQ Currents and Selectively Alters Neuronal Excitability in Subsets of Sympathetic Neurons Depending on their M/KCNQ Current Background 
The Journal of General Physiology  2008;131(6):575-587.
M/KCNQ currents play a critical role in the determination of neuronal excitability. Many neurotransmitters and peptides modulate M/KCNQ current and neuronal excitability through their G protein–coupled receptors. Nerve growth factor (NGF) activates its receptor, a member of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) superfamily, and crucially modulates neuronal cell survival, proliferation, and differentiation. In this study, we studied the effect of NGF on the neuronal (rat superior cervical ganglion, SCG) M/KCNQ currents and excitability. As reported before, subpopulation SCG neurons with distinct firing properties could be classified into tonic, phasic-1, and phasic-2 neurons. NGF inhibited M/KCNQ currents by similar proportion in all three classes of SCG neurons but increased the excitability only significantly in tonic SCG neurons. The effect of NGF on excitability correlated with a smaller M-current density in tonic neurons. The present study indicates that NGF is an M/KCNQ channel modulator and the characteristic modulation of the neuronal excitability by NGF may have important physiological implications.
PMCID: PMC2391251  PMID: 18474635
7.  Inflammatory Mediators Increase Nav1.9 Current and Excitability in Nociceptors through a Coincident Detection Mechanism 
The Journal of General Physiology  2008;131(3):211-225.
Altered function of Na+ channels is responsible for increased hyperexcitability of primary afferent neurons that may underlie pathological pain states. Recent evidence suggests that the Nav1.9 subunit is implicated in inflammatory but not acute pain. However, the contribution of Nav1.9 channels to the cellular events underlying nociceptor hyperexcitability is still unknown, and there remains much uncertainty as to the biophysical properties of Nav1.9 current and its modulation by inflammatory mediators. Here, we use gene targeting strategy and computer modeling to identify Nav1.9 channel current signature and its impact on nociceptors' firing patterns. Recordings using internal fluoride in small DRG neurons from wild-type and Nav1.9-null mutant mice demonstrated that Nav1.9 subunits carry the TTX-resistant “persistent” Na+ current called NaN. Nav1.9−/− nociceptors showed no significant change in the properties of the slowly inactivating TTX-resistant SNS/Nav1.8 current. The loss in Nav1.9-mediated Na+ currents was associated with the inability of small DRG neurons to generate a large variety of electrophysiological behaviors, including subthreshold regenerative depolarizations, plateau potentials, active hyperpolarizing responses, oscillatory bursting discharges, and bistable membrane behaviors. We further investigated, using CsCl- and KCl-based pipette solutions, whether G-protein signaling pathways and inflammatory mediators upregulate the NaN/Nav1.9 current. Bradykinin, ATP, histamine, prostaglandin-E2, and norepinephrine, applied separately at maximal concentrations, all failed to modulate the Nav1.9 current. However, when applied conjointly as a soup of inflammatory mediators they rapidly potentiated Nav1.9 channel activity, generating subthreshold amplification and increased excitability. We conclude that Nav1.9 channel, the molecular correlate of the NaN current, is potentiated by the concerted action of inflammatory mediators that may contribute to nociceptors' hyperexcitability during peripheral inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2248717  PMID: 18270172
8.  Mechanosensor Channels in Mammalian Somatosensory Neurons 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2007;7(9):1667-1682.
Mechanoreceptive sensory neurons innervating the skin, skeletal muscles and viscera signal both innocuous and noxious information necessary for proprioception, touch and pain. These neurons are responsible for the transduction of mechanical stimuli into action potentials that propagate to the central nervous system. The ability of these cells to detect mechanical stimuli impinging on them relies on the presence of mechanosensitive channels that transduce the external mechanical forces into electrical and chemical signals. Although a great deal of information regarding the molecular and biophysical properties of mechanosensitive channels in prokaryotes has been accumulated over the past two decades, less is known about the mechanosensitive channels necessary for proprioception and the senses of touch and pain. This review summarizes the most pertinent data on mechanosensitive channels of mammalian somatosensory neurons, focusing on their properties, pharmacology and putative identity.
PMCID: PMC3841838
Pain; Touch; Skin sensation; Mechanosensory transduction; Stretch; Osmotic shock; Mechanosensitive channels; TRP channels; ASIC; amiloride; DRG
9.  Pharmacological Dissection and Distribution of NaN/Nav1.9, T-type Ca2+ Currents, and Mechanically Activated Cation Currents in Different Populations of DRG Neurons 
Low voltage–activated (LVA) T-type Ca2+ (ICaT) and NaN/Nav1.9 currents regulate DRG neurons by setting the threshold for the action potential. Although alterations in these channels have been implicated in a variety of pathological pain states, their roles in processing sensory information remain poorly understood. Here, we carried out a detailed characterization of LVA currents in DRG neurons by using a method for better separation of NaN/Nav1.9 and ICaT currents. NaN/Nav1.9 was inhibited by inorganic ICa blockers as follows (IC50, μM): La3+ (46) > Cd2+ (233) > Ni2+ (892) and by mibefradil, a non-dihydropyridine ICaT antagonist. Amiloride, however, a preferential Cav3.2 channel blocker, had no effects on NaN/Nav1.9 current. Using these discriminative tools, we showed that NaN/Nav1.9, Cav3.2, and amiloride- and Ni2+-resistant ICaT (AR-ICaT) contribute differentially to LVA currents in distinct sensory cell populations. NaN/Nav1.9 carried LVA currents into type-I (CI) and type-II (CII) small nociceptors and medium-Aδ–like nociceptive cells but not in low-threshold mechanoreceptors, including putative Down-hair (D-hair) and Aα/β cells. Cav3.2 predominated in CII-nociceptors and in putative D-hair cells. AR-ICaT was restricted to CII-nociceptors, putative D-hair cells, and Aα/β-like cells. These cell types distinguished by their current-signature displayed different types of mechanosensitive channels. CI- and CII-nociceptors displayed amiloride-sensitive high-threshold mechanical currents with slow or no adaptation, respectively. Putative D-hair and Aα/β-like cells had low-threshold mechanical currents, which were distinguished by their adapting kinetics and sensitivity to amiloride. Thus, subspecialized DRG cells express specific combinations of LVA and mechanosensitive channels, which are likely to play a key role in shaping responses of DRG neurons transmitting different sensory modalities.
PMCID: PMC2151607  PMID: 17190903

Results 1-9 (9)