Chronic pain is associated with abnormal excitability of the somatosensory system and remains poorly treated in the clinic. Potassium (K⁺) channels are crucial determinants of neuronal activity throughout the nervous system. Opening of these channels facilitates a hyperpolarizing K⁺ efflux across the plasma membrane that counteracts inward ion conductance and therefore limits neuronal excitability. Accumulating research has highlighted a prominent involvement of K⁺ channels in nociceptive processing, particularly in determining peripheral hyperexcitability. We review salient findings from expression, pharmacological, and genetic studies that have untangled a hitherto undervalued contribution of K⁺ channels in maladaptive pain signaling. These emerging data provide a framework to explain enigmatic pain syndromes and to design novel pharmacological treatments for these debilitating states.
Keywords: dorsal root ganglia; pain; pharmacotherapy; potassium channel.
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