Background: We have previously shown that a decrease of inward Ca(2+) flux (I(Ca)) across the sensory neuron plasmalemma, such as happens after axotomy, increases neuronal excitability. From this, we predicted that increasing I(Ca) in injured neurons should correct their hyperexcitability.
Methods: The influence of increased or decreased I(Ca) upon membrane biophysical variables and excitability was determined during recording from A-type neurons in nondissociated dorsal root ganglia after spinal nerve ligation using an intracellular recording technique.
Results: When the bath Ca(2+) level was increased to promote I(Ca), the after-hyperpolarization was decreased and repetitive firing was suppressed, which also followed amplification of Ca(2+)-activated K(+) current with selective agents NS1619 and NS309. A decreased external bath Ca(2+) concentration had the opposite effects, similar to previous observations in uninjured neurons.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that at least a part of the hyperexcitability of somatic sensory neurons after axotomy is attributable to diminished inward Ca(2+) flux, and that measures to restore I(Ca) may potentially be therapeutic for painful peripheral neuropathy.