Reverse pharmacogenomics: carbamazepine normalizes activation and attenuates thermal hyperexcitability of sensory neurons due to Nav 1.7 mutation I234T

Br J Pharmacol. 2018 Jun;175(12):2261-2271. doi: 10.1111/bph.13935. Epub 2017 Jul 30.


Background and purpose: Pharmacotherapy for pain currently involves trial and error. A previous study on inherited erythromelalgia (a genetic model of neuropathic pain due to mutations in the sodium channel, Nav 1.7) used genomics, structural modelling and biophysical and pharmacological analyses to guide pharmacotherapy and showed that carbamazepine normalizes voltage dependence of activation of the Nav 1.7-S241T mutant channel, reducing pain in patients carrying this mutation. However, whether this approach is applicable to other Nav channel mutants is still unknown.

Experimental approach: We used structural modelling, patch clamp and multi-electrode array (MEA) recording to assess the effects of carbamazepine on Nav 1.7-I234T mutant channels and on the firing of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons expressing these mutant channels.

Key results: In a reverse engineering approach, structural modelling showed that the I234T mutation is located in atomic proximity to the carbamazepine-responsive S241T mutation and that activation of Nav 1.7-I234T mutant channels, from patients who are known to respond to carbamazepine, is partly normalized with a clinically relevant concentration (30 μM) of carbamazepine. There was significantly higher firing in intact sensory neurons expressing Nav 1.7-I234T channels, compared with neurons expressing the normal channels (Nav 1.7-WT). Pre-incubation with 30 μM carbamazepine also significantly reduced the firing of intact DRG sensory neurons expressing Nav 1.7-I234T channels. Although the expected use-dependent inhibition of Nav 1.7-WT channels by carbamazepine was confirmed, carbamazepine did not enhance use-dependent inhibition of Nav 1.7-I234T mutant channels.

Conclusion and implications: These results support the utility of a pharmacogenomic approach to treatment of pain in patients carrying sodium channel variants.

Linked articles: This article is part of a themed section on Recent Advances in Targeting Ion Channels to Treat Chronic Pain. To view the other articles in this section visit

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carbamazepine / pharmacology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation*
  • NAV1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / chemistry
  • NAV1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics*
  • NAV1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / metabolism*
  • Pharmacogenetics*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / drug effects*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism
  • Temperature*


  • NAV1.7 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Carbamazepine