Nerve injury increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels to suppress BK channel activity in primary sensory neurons

J Neurochem. 2012 Jun;121(6):944-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2012.07736.x. Epub 2012 Apr 12.


Abnormal hyperexcitability of primary sensory neurons contributes to neuropathic pain development after nerve injury. Nerve injury profoundly reduces the expression of big conductance Ca(2+) -activated K(+) (BK) channels in the dorsal root ganglion (DRG). However, little is known about how nerve injury affects BK channel activity in DRG neurons. In this study, we determined the changes in BK channel activity in DRG neurons in a rat model of neuropathic pain and the contribution of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to reduced BK channel activity. The BK channel activity was present predominantly in small and medium DRG neurons, and ligation of L5 and L6 spinal nerves profoundly decreased the BK current density in these neurons. Blocking BK channels significantly increased neuronal excitability in sham control, but not in nerve-injured, rats. The BDNF concentration in the DRG was significantly greater in nerve-injured rats than in control rats. BDNF treatment largely reduced BK currents in DRG neurons in control rats, which was blocked by either anti-BDNF antibody or K252a, a Trk receptor inhibitor. Furthermore, either anti-BDNF antibody or K252a reversed reduction in BK currents in injured DRG neurons. BDNF treatment reduced the mRNA levels of BKα1 subunit in DRG neurons, and anti-BDNF antibody attenuated the reduction in the BKα1 mRNA level in injured DRG neurons. These findings suggest that nerve injury primarily diminishes the BK channel activity in small and medium DRG neurons. Increased BDNF levels contribute to reduced BK channel activity in DRG neurons through epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms in neuropathic pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neuralgia / metabolism*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Spinal Nerves / injuries*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels