Mechanisms Underlying the Selective Therapeutic Efficacy of Carbamazepine for Attenuation of Trigeminal Nerve Injury Pain

J Neurosci. 2021 Oct 27;41(43):8991-9007. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0547-21.2021. Epub 2021 Aug 26.


Different peripheral nerve injuries cause neuropathic pain through distinct mechanisms. Even the site of injury may impact underlying mechanisms, as indicated by the clinical finding that the antiseizure drug carbamazepine (CBZ) relieves pain because of compression injuries of trigeminal but not somatic nerves. We leveraged this observation in the present study hypothesizing that because CBZ blocks voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs), its therapeutic selectivity reflects differences between trigeminal and somatic nerves with respect to injury-induced changes in VGSCs. CBZ diminished ongoing and evoked pain behavior in rats with chronic constriction injury (CCI) to the infraorbital nerve (ION) but had minimal effect in rats with sciatic nerve CCI. This difference in behavior was associated with a selective increase in the potency of CBZ-induced inhibition of compound action potentials in the ION, an effect mirrored in human trigeminal versus somatic nerves. The increase in potency was associated with a selective increase in the efficacy of the NaV1.1 channel blocker ICA-121431 and NaV1.1 protein in the ION, but no change in NaV1.1 mRNA in trigeminal ganglia. Importantly, local ICA-121431 administration reversed ION CCI-induced hypersensitivity. Our results suggest a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of trigeminal neuropathic pain.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT This study is based on evidence of differences in pain and its treatment depending on whether the pain is above (trigeminal) or below (somatic) the neck, as well as evidence that voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) may contribute to these differences. The focus of the present study was on channels underlying action potential propagation in peripheral nerves. There were differences between somatic and trigeminal nerves in VGSC subtypes underlying action potential propagation both in the absence and presence of injury. Importantly, because the local block of NaV1.1 in the trigeminal nerve reverses nerve injury-induced mechanical hypersensitivity, the selective upregulation of NaV1.1 in trigeminal nerves suggests a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of pain associated with trigeminal nerve injury.

Keywords: chronic pain; conditioned place preference; neuropathy; orofacial; sex difference.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Carbamazepine / pharmacology
  • Carbamazepine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Male
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / biosynthesis
  • Neuralgia / drug therapy*
  • Neuralgia / metabolism
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Threshold / drug effects
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / drug therapy*
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / metabolism


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Scn1a protein, rat
  • Carbamazepine