Therapeutic use of general sodium channel blockers, such as lidocaine, can substantially reduce the enhanced activity in sensory neurons that accompanies chronic pain after nerve or tissue injury. However, because these general blockers have significant side effects, there is great interest in developing inhibitors that specifically target subtypes of sodium channels. Moreover, some idiopathic small-fiber neuropathies are driven by gain-of-function mutations in specific sodium channel subtypes. In the current study, we focus on one subtype, the voltage-gated sodium channel 1.8 (Nav1.8). Nav1.8 is preferentially expressed in nociceptors, and gain-of-function mutations in Nav1.8 result in painful mechanical hypersensitivity in humans. Here, we used the recently developed gain-of-function Nav1.8 transgenic mouse strain, Possum, to investigate Nav1.8-mediated peripheral afferent hyperexcitability. This gain-of-function mutation resulted in markedly increased mechanically evoked action potential firing in subclasses of Aβ, Aδ, and C fibers. Moreover, mechanical stimuli initiated bursts of action potential firing in specific subpopulations that continued for minutes after removal of the force and were not susceptible to conduction failure. Surprisingly, despite the intense afferent firing, the behavioral effects of the Nav1.8 mutation were quite modest, as only frankly noxious stimuli elicited enhanced pain behavior. These data demonstrate that a Nav1.8 gain-of-function point mutation contributes to intense hyperexcitability along the afferent axon within distinct sensory neuron subtypes.
Keywords: Gain-of-function; Inflammatory pain; Mechanical hyperalgesia; Na(v)1.8; Neuropathic pain; Scn10a; Spontaneous activity.
Copyright © 2014 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.