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1.  An ankyrinG-binding motif is necessary and sufficient for targeting Nav1.6 sodium channels to axon initial segments and nodes of Ranvier 
Neurons are highly polarized cells with functionally distinct axonal and somatodendritic compartments. Voltage-gated sodium channels Nav1.2 and Nav1.6 are highly enriched at axon initial segments (AIS) and nodes of Ranvier, where they are necessary for generation and propagation of action potentials. Previous studies using reporter proteins in unmyelinated cultured neurons suggest that an ankyrinG-binding motif within intracellular loop 2 (L2) of sodium channels is sufficient for targeting these channels to the AIS, but mechanisms of channel targeting to nodes remain poorly understood. Using a CD4-Nav1.2/L2 reporter protein in rat dorsal root ganglion neuron-Schwann cell myelinating co-cultures, we show that the ankyrinG-binding motif is sufficient for protein targeting to nodes of Ranvier. However, reporter proteins cannot capture the complexity of full-length channels. To determine how native, full-length sodium channels are clustered in axons, and to show the feasibility of studying these channels in vivo, we constructed fluorescently-tagged and functional mouse Nav1.6 channels for in vivo analysis using in utero brain electroporation. We show here that wild-type tagged-Nav1.6 channels are efficiently clustered at nodes and AIS in vivo. Furthermore, we show that mutation of a single invariant glutamic acid residue (E1100) within the ankyrinG-binding motif blocked Nav1.6 targeting in neurons both in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, we show that caseine kinase phosphorylation sites within this motif, while not essential for targeting, can modulate clustering at the AIS. Thus, the ankyrinG- binding motif is both necessary and sufficient for the clustering of sodium channels at nodes of Ranvier and the AIS.
PMCID: PMC3413458  PMID: 22623668
Ion Channel; Axon Initial Segment; Nodes of Ranvier; cytoskeleton; in utero electroporation
2.  A Novel Nav1.7 Mutation Producing Carbamazepine-Responsive Erythromelalgia 
Annals of neurology  2009;65(6):733-741.
Human and animal studies have shown that Nav1.7 sodium channels, which are preferentially expressed within nociceptors and sympathetic neurons, play a major role in inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Inherited erythromelalgia (IEM) has been linked to gain-of-function mutations of Nav1.7. We now report a novel mutation (V400M) in a three-generation Canadian family in which pain is relieved by carbamazepine (CBZ).
We extracted genomic DNA from blood samples of eight members of the family, and the sequence of SCN9A coding exons was compared with the reference Nav1.7 complementary DNA. Wild-type Nav1.7 and V400M cell lines were then analyzed using whole-cell patch-clamp recording for changes in activation, deactivation, steady-state inactivation, and ramp currents.
Whole-cell patch-clamp studies of V400M demonstrate changes in activation, deactivation, steady-state inactivation, and ramp currents that can produce dorsal root ganglia neuron hyperexcitability that underlies pain in these patients. We show that CBZ, at concentrations in the human therapeutic range, normalizes the voltage dependence of activation and inactivation of this inherited erythromelalgia mutation in Nav1.7 but does not affect these parameters in wild-type Nav1.7.
Our results demonstrate a normalizing effect of CBZ on mutant Nav1.7 channels in this kindred with CBZ-responsive inherited erythromelalgia. The selective effect of CBZ on the mutant Nav1.7 channel appears to explain the ameliorative response to treatment in this kindred. Our results suggest that functional expression and pharmacological studies may provide mechanistic insights into hereditary painful disorders.
PMCID: PMC4103031  PMID: 19557861
3.  Screening Fluorescent Voltage Indicators with Spontaneously Spiking HEK Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e85221.
Development of improved fluorescent voltage indicators is a key challenge in neuroscience, but progress has been hampered by the low throughput of patch-clamp characterization. We introduce a line of non-fluorescent HEK cells that stably express NaV 1.3 and KIR 2.1 and generate spontaneous electrical action potentials. These cells enable rapid, electrode-free screening of speed and sensitivity of voltage sensitive dyes or fluorescent proteins on a standard fluorescence microscope. We screened a small library of mutants of archaerhodopsin 3 (Arch) in spiking HEK cells and identified two mutants with greater voltage-sensitivity than found in previously published Arch voltage indicators.
PMCID: PMC3877367  PMID: 24391999
4.  Structural homology modeling and mutant cycle analysis predict pharmacoresponsiveness of a NaV1.7 mutant channel 
Nature communications  2012;3:1186.
The NaV1.7 voltage-gated sodium channel is critical for pain signaling in humans. Gain-of-function mutations are associated with several pain syndromes including inherited erythromelalgia (IEM). Most IEM patients with NaV1.7 mutations are resistant to pharmacotherapy, but carbamazepine (CBZ) normalizes activation of NaV1.7-V400M mutant channels from a family with CBZ-responsive IEM. Here we show that structural modeling and mutant cycle analysis predict pharmacoresponsiveness to CBZ of a NaV1.7 mutant channel that substitutes a residue 159 amino acids distant from V400M in the channel peptide. Structural modeling reveals that this IEM mutation (S241T) is only 2.4-angstrom (Å) apart from V400M in the folded NaV1.7 channel and mutant cycle analysis demonstrates that V400M is energetically coupled to S241T during channel activation. We further show that the atomic proximity and energetic coupling of V400M and S241T are paralleled by pharmacological coupling, as CBZ at therapeutic concentration (30 μM) causes a depolarizing shift of S214T mutant channel activation curve, similar to that previously reported for V400M mutant channel. This pharmacoresponsiveness of S241T to CBZ was further evident at a cellular level, where CBZ normalized the hyperexcitability of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons expressing S241T mutant channel. We suggest that a similar approach might facilitate screening for amino acid variants of a variety of channels that confer enhanced pharmacoresponsiveness on the channel.
PMCID: PMC3530897  PMID: 23149731
5.  Expression of Nav1.7 in DRG neurons extends from peripheral terminals in the skin to central preterminal branches and terminals in the dorsal horn 
Molecular Pain  2012;8:82.
Sodium channel Nav1.7 has emerged as a target of considerable interest in pain research, since loss-of-function mutations in SCN9A, the gene that encodes Nav1.7, are associated with a syndrome of congenital insensitivity to pain, gain-of-function mutations are linked to the debiliting chronic pain conditions erythromelalgia and paroxysmal extreme pain disorder, and upregulated expression of Nav1.7 accompanies pain in diabetes and inflammation. Since Nav1.7 has been implicated as playing a critical role in pain pathways, we examined by immunocytochemical methods the expression and distribution of Nav1.7 in rat dorsal root ganglia neurons, from peripheral terminals in the skin to central terminals in the spinal cord dorsal horn.
Nav1.7 is robustly expressed within the somata of peptidergic and non-peptidergic DRG neurons, and along the peripherally- and centrally-directed C-fibers of these cells. Nav1.7 is also expressed at nodes of Ranvier in a subpopulation of Aδ-fibers within sciatic nerve and dorsal root. The peripheral terminals of DRG neurons within skin, intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENF), exhibit robust Nav1.7 immunolabeling. The central projections of DRG neurons in the superficial lamina of spinal cord dorsal horn also display Nav1.7 immunoreactivity which extends to presynaptic terminals.
The expression of Nav1.7 in DRG neurons extends from peripheral terminals in the skin to preterminal central branches and terminals in the dorsal horn. These data support a major contribution for Nav1.7 in pain pathways, including action potential electrogenesis, conduction along axonal trunks and depolarization/invasion of presynaptic axons. The findings presented here may be important for pharmaceutical development, where target engagement in the right compartment is essential.
PMCID: PMC3517774  PMID: 23134641
Dorsal root ganglia; Dorsal horn; Intraepidermal nerve fiber; Pain pathway; Sodium channel; Spinal cord
6.  PKCε phosphorylation of the sodium channel NaV1.8 increases channel function and produces mechanical hyperalgesia in mice  
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(4):1306-1315.
Mechanical hyperalgesia is a common and potentially disabling complication of many inflammatory and neuropathic conditions. Activation of the enzyme PKCε in primary afferent nociceptors is a major mechanism that underlies mechanical hyperalgesia, but the PKCε substrates involved downstream are not known. Here, we report that in a proteomic screen we identified the NaV1.8 sodium channel, which is selectively expressed in nociceptors, as a PKCε substrate. PKCε-mediated phosphorylation increased NaV1.8 currents, lowered the threshold voltage for activation, and produced a depolarizing shift in inactivation in wild-type — but not in PKCε-null — sensory neurons. PKCε phosphorylated NaV1.8 at S1452, and alanine substitution at this site blocked PKCε modulation of channel properties. Moreover, a specific PKCε activator peptide, ψεRACK, produced mechanical hyperalgesia in wild-type mice but not in Scn10a–/– mice, which lack NaV1.8 channels. These studies demonstrate that NaV1.8 is an important, direct substrate of PKCε that mediates PKCε-dependent mechanical hyperalgesia.
PMCID: PMC3315445  PMID: 22426212
7.  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
8.  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
9.  FGF14 N-Terminal Splice Variants Differentially Modulate Nav1.2 and Nav1.6-Encoded Sodium Channels 
The Intracellular Fibroblast Growth Factor (iFGF) subfamily includes four members (FGFs 11–14) of the structurally related FGF superfamily. Previous studies showed that the iFGFs interact directly with the pore-forming (α) subunits of voltage-gated sodium (Nav) channels and regulate the functional properties of sodium channel currents. Sequence heterogeneity among the iFGFs is thought to confer specificity to this regulation. Here, we demonstrate that the two N-terminal alternatively spliced FGF14 variants, FGF14-1a and FGF14-1b, differentially regulate currents produced by Nav1.2-and Nav1.6 channels. FGF14-1b, but not FGF14-1a, attenuates both Nav1.2 and Nav1.6 current densities. In contrast, co-expression of an FGF14 mutant, lacking the N-terminus, increased Nav1.6 current densities. In neurons, both FGF14-1a and FGF14-1b localized at the axonal initial segment, and deletion of the N-terminus abolished this localization. Thus, the FGF14 N-terminus is required for targeting and functional regulation of Nav channels, suggesting an important function for FGF14 alternative splicing in regulating neuronal excitability.
PMCID: PMC2832592  PMID: 19465131
10.  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
11.  Mutations at opposite ends of the DIII/S4-S5 linker of sodium channel NaV1.7 produce distinct pain disorders 
Molecular Pain  2010;6:24.
Two groups of gain-of-function mutations in sodium channel NaV1.7, which are expressed in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, produce two clinically-distinct pain syndromes - inherited erythromelalgia (IEM) and paroxysmal extreme pain disorder (PEPD). IEM is characterized by intermittent burning pain and skin redness in the feet or hands, triggered by warmth or mild exercise, while PEPD is characterized by episodes of rectal, ocular and mandibular pain accompanied with skin flushing, triggered by bowel movement and perianal stimulation. Most of the IEM mutations are located within channel domains I and II, while most of the PEPD mutations are located within domains III and IV. The structural dichotomy parallels the biophysical effects of the two types of mutations, with IEM mutations shifting voltage-dependence of NaV1.7 activation in a hyperpolarized direction, and PEPD mutations shifting fast-inactivation of NaV1.7 in a depolarized direction. While four IEM and four PEPD mutations are located within cytoplasmic linkers joining segments 4 and 5 (S4-S5 linkers) in the different domains (IEM: domains I and II; PEPD: domains III and IV), no S4-S5 linker has been reported to house both IEM and PEPD mutations thus far.
We have identified a new IEM mutation P1308L within the C-terminus of the DIII/S4-S5 linker of NaV1.7, ten amino acids from a known PEPD mutation V1298F which is located within the N-terminus of this linker. We used voltage-clamp to compare the biophysical properties of the two mutant channels and current-clamp to study their effects on DRG neuron excitability. We confirm that P1308L and V1298F behave as prototypical IEM and PEPD mutations, respectively. We also show that DRG neurons expressing either P1308L or V1298F become hyperexcitable, compared to DRG neurons expressing wild-type channels.
Our results provide evidence for differential roles of the DIII/S4-S5 linker N- and C-termini in channel inactivation and activation, and demonstrate the cellular basis for pain in patients carrying these mutations.
PMCID: PMC2876140  PMID: 20429905
12.  The ataxia3 mutation in the N-terminal cytoplasmic domain of sodium channel Nav1.6 disrupts intracellular trafficking 
The ENU-induced neurological mutant ataxia3 was mapped to distal mouse chromosome 15. Sequencing of the positional candidate gene Scn8a encoding the sodium channel Nav1.6 identified a T>C transition in exon 1 resulting in the amino acid substitution p.S21P near the N-terminus of the channel. The cytoplasmic N-terminal region is evolutionarily conserved but its function has not been well characterized. ataxia3 homozygotes exhibit a severe disorder that includes ataxia, tremor, and juvenile lethality. Unlike Scn8a null mice, they retain partial hind limb function. The mutant transcript is stable but protein abundance is reduced and the mutant channel is not detected in its usual site of concentration at nodes of Ranvier. In whole cell patch-clamp studies of transfected ND7/23 cells which were maintained at 37°C, the mutant channel did not produce sodium current, and function was not restored by co-expression of β1 and β2 subunits. However, when tranfected cells were maintained at 30°C, the mutant channel generated voltage-dependent inward sodium currents with an average peak current density comparable to wildtype, demonstrating recovery of channel activity. Immunohistochemistry of primary cerebellar granule cells from ataxia3 mice demonstrated that the mutant protein is retained in the cis-Golgi. This trafficking defect can account for the low level of Nav1.6-S21P at nodes of Ranvier in vivo and at the surface of transfected cells. The data demonstrate that the cytoplasmic N-terminal domain of the sodium channel is required for anterograde transport from the Golgi complex to the plasma membrane.
PMCID: PMC2679640  PMID: 19261867
SCN8A; Nav1.6; sodium channel; channelopathy; trafficking; mutant
13.  Paroxysmal extreme pain disorder M1627K mutation in human Nav1.7 renders DRG neurons hyperexcitable 
Molecular Pain  2008;4:37.
Paroxysmal extreme pain disorder (PEPD) is an autosomal dominant painful neuropathy with many, but not all, cases linked to gain-of-function mutations in SCN9A which encodes voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7. Severe pain episodes and skin flushing start in infancy and are induced by perianal probing or bowl movement, and pain progresses to ocular and mandibular areas with age. Carbamazepine has been effective in relieving symptoms, while other drugs including other anti-epileptics are less effective.
Sequencing of SCN9A coding exons from an English patient, diagnosed with PEPD, has identified a methionine 1627 to lysine (M1627K) substitution in the linker joining segments S4 and S5 in domain IV. We confirm that M1627K depolarizes the voltage-dependence of fast-inactivation without substantially altering activation or slow-inactivation, and inactivates from the open state with slower kinetics. We show here that M1627K does not alter development of closed-state inactivation, and that M1627K channels recover from fast-inactivation faster than wild type channels, and produce larger currents in response to a slow ramp stimulus. Using current-clamp recordings, we also show that the M1627K mutant channel reduces the threshold for single action potentials in DRG neurons and increases the number of action potentials in response to graded stimuli.
M1627K mutation was previously identified in a sporadic case of PEPD from France, and we now report it in an English family. We confirm the initial characterization of mutant M1627K effect on fast-inactivation of Nav1.7 and extend the analysis to other gating properties of the channel. We also show that M1627K mutant channels render DRG neurons hyperexcitable. Our new data provide a link between altered channel biophysics and pain in PEPD patients.
PMCID: PMC2556659  PMID: 18803825
14.  Mutation I136V alters electrophysiological properties of the NaV1.7 channel in a family with onset of erythromelalgia in the second decade 
Molecular Pain  2008;4:1.
Primary erythromelalgia is an autosomal dominant pain disorder characterized by burning pain and skin redness in the extremities, with onset of symptoms during the first decade in the families whose mutations have been physiologically studied to date. Several mutations of voltage-gated Na+ channel NaV1.7 have been linked with primary erythromelalgia. Recently, a new substitution NaV1.7/I136V has been reported in a Taiwanese family, in which pain appeared at later ages (9–22 years, with onset at 17 years of age or later in 5 of 7 family members), with relatively slow progression (8–10 years) to involvement of the hands. The proband reported onset of symptoms first in his feet at the age of 11, which then progressed to his hands at the age of 19. The new mutation is located in transmembrane segment 1 (S1) of domain I (DI) in contrast to all NaV1.7 mutations reported to date, which have been localized in the voltage sensor S4, the linker joining segments S4 and S5 or pore-lining segments S5 and S6 in DI, II and III.
In this study, we characterized the gating and kinetic properties of I136V mutant channels in HEK293 cells using whole-cell patch clamp. I136V shifts the voltage-dependence of activation by -5.7 mV, a smaller shift in activation than the other erythromelalgia mutations that have been characterized. I136V also decreases the deactivation rate, and generates larger ramp currents.
The I136V substitution in NaV1.7 alters channel gating and kinetic properties. Each of these changes may contribute to increased excitability of nociceptive dorsal root ganglion neurons, which underlies pain in erythromelalgia. The smaller shift in voltage-dependence of activation of NaV1.7, compared to the other reported cases of inherited erythromelalgia, may contribute to the later age of onset and slower progression of the symptoms reported in association with this mutation.
PMCID: PMC2262064  PMID: 18171466
15.  Temperature dependence of erythromelalgia mutation L858F in sodium channel Nav1.7 
Molecular Pain  2007;3:3.
The disabling chronic pain syndrome erythromelalgia (also termed erythermalgia) is characterized by attacks of burning pain in the extremities induced by warmth. Pharmacological treatment is often ineffective, but the pain can be alleviated by cooling of the limbs. Inherited erythromelalgia has recently been linked to mutations in the gene SCN9A, which encodes the voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7. Nav1.7 is preferentially expressed in most nociceptive DRG neurons and in sympathetic ganglion neurons. It has recently been shown that several disease-causing erythromelalgia mutations alter channel-gating behavior in a manner that increases DRG neuron excitability.
Here we tested the effects of temperature on gating properties of wild type Nav1.7 and mutant L858F channels. Whole-cell voltage-clamp measurements on wild type or L858F channels expressed in HEK293 cells revealed that cooling decreases current density, slows deactivation and increases ramp currents for both mutant and wild type channels. However, cooling differentially shifts the midpoint of steady-state activation in a depolarizing direction for L858F but not for wild type channels.
The cooling-dependent shift of the activation midpoint of L858F to more positive potentials brings the threshold of activation of the mutant channels closer to that of wild type Nav1.7 at lower temperatures, and is likely to contribute to the alleviation of painful symptoms upon cooling in affected limbs in patients with this erythromelalgia mutation.
PMCID: PMC1781932  PMID: 17239250

Results 1-15 (15)