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1.  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
2.  Regulatory Role of Voltage-Gated Na+ Channel β Subunits in Sensory Neurons 
Voltage-gated sodium Na+ channels are membrane-bound proteins incorporating aqueous conduction pores that are highly selective for sodium Na+ ions. The opening of these channels results in the rapid influx of Na+ ions that depolarize the cell and drive the rapid upstroke of nerve and muscle action potentials. While the concept of a Na+-selective ion channel had been formulated in the 1940s, it was not until the 1980s that the biochemical properties of the 260-kDa and 36-kDa auxiliary β subunits (β1, β2) were first described. Subsequent cloning and heterologous expression studies revealed that the α subunit forms the core of the channel and is responsible for both voltage-dependent gating and ionic selectivity. To date, 10 isoforms of the Na+ channel α subunit have been identified that vary in their primary structures, tissue distribution, biophysical properties, and sensitivity to neurotoxins. Four β subunits (β1–β4) and two splice variants (β1A, β1B) have been identified that modulate the subcellular distribution, cell surface expression, and functional properties of the α subunits. The purpose of this review is to provide a broad overview of β subunit expression and function in peripheral sensory neurons and examine their contributions to neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC3221288  PMID: 22125538
voltage-gated sodium channel; pain; β subunit; peripheral nervous system

Results 1-2 (2)