Enhanced SCN7A/Nax expression contributes to bone cancer pain by increasing excitability of neurons in dorsal root ganglion

Neuroscience. 2012 Dec 27;227:80-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.09.046. Epub 2012 Sep 28.


Bone pain is one of the most common complications in cancer patients with bone metastases, and has the most significant impact on quality of life for patients. Patients with bone cancer pain may be difficult to treat due to the poor understanding of the mechanisms; therefore, the mechanisms of bone cancer pain required elucidation for developing new therapeutics. Recent studies show that SCN7A/Nax channel serves as a sodium-level sensor of the body fluid that controls the Na-intake behavior by changing the excitability of neurons. In the current study, the expression of SCN7A/Nax and the excitability of primary sensory neurons in bone cancer pain rats were examined. The analgesic effects of knockdown SCN7A/Nax channel using RNAi lentivirus intrathecal treatment were evaluated with a behavioral test. The results showed that implantation of sarcoma induced ongoing and movement-evoked pain behaviors, whereas SCN7A/Nax knockdown prevented the onset of these hyperalgesia. Immunohistochemistry showed that SCN7A/Nax was located in the medium- to large-sized neurons in dorsal root ganglions (DRGs). The proportion of SCN7A/Nax-positive cells was significantly increased in DRGs ipsilateral to sarcoma implantation. Immunostaining results were further confirmed by Western blot and real time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analyses. Recording from primary sensory neurons in excised rat dorsal root ganglias, we found that most of SCN7A/Nax-positive neurons exhibited subthreshold oscillations, depolarized resting membrane potential and more negative threshold of action potential. These electrophysiological changes of neurons increased ectopic spike discharge which was thought to be an important generator of chronic pain, however, the hyperexcitability was completely reversed by SCN7A/Nax knockdown. These results demonstrate that enhanced expression of SCN7A/Nax channel within distinct subpopulation of DRG neurons contributes to bone cancer pain by increasing the excitability of these neurons. These findings may lead to novel strategies for the treatment of bone cancer pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bone Neoplasms / complications
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / pathology*
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / pathology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • RNA Interference / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sarcoma / complications
  • Sarcoma / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Up-Regulation / physiology
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Scn7a protein, rat
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels