Changes in electrophysiological properties and sodium channel Nav1.3 expression in thalamic neurons after spinal cord injury

Brain. 2005 Oct;128(Pt 10):2359-71. doi: 10.1093/brain/awh623. Epub 2005 Aug 18.


Spinal cord contusion injury (SCI) is known to induce pain-related behaviour, as well as hyperresponsiveness in lumbar dorsal horn nociceptive neurons associated with the aberrant expression of Na(v)1.3, a rapidly repriming voltage-gated sodium channel. Many of these second-order dorsal horn neurons project to third-order neurons in the ventrobasal complex of the thalamus. In this study we hypothesized that, following SCI, neurons in the thalamus undergo electrophysiological changes linked to aberrant expression of Na(v)1.3. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent contusion SCI at the T9 thoracic level. Four weeks post-SCI, Na(v)1.3 protein was upregulated within thalamic neurons in ventroposterior lateral (VPL) and ventroposterior medial nuclei, where extracellular unit recordings revealed increased spontaneous discharge, afterdischarge, hyperresponsiveness to innocuous and noxious peripheral stimuli, and expansion of peripheral receptive fields. Altered electrophysiological properties of VPL neurons persisted after interruption of ascending spinal barrage by spinal cord transection above the level of the injury. Lumbar intrathecal administration of specific antisense oligodeoxynucleotides generated against Na(v)1.3 caused a significant reduction in Na(v)1.3 expression in thalamic neurons and reversed electrophysiological alterations. These results show, for the first time, a change in sodium channel expression within neurons in the thalamus after injury to the spinal cord, and suggest that these changes contribute to altered processing of somatosensory information after SCI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Lateral Thalamic Nuclei / metabolism
  • Male
  • NAV1.3 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Channels / analysis
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / genetics
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Thalamus / metabolism*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae
  • Up-Regulation
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / metabolism


  • NAV1.3 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Scn3a protein, rat
  • Sodium Channels