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Open Access Research

Inactivation properties of sodium channel Nav1.8 maintain action potential amplitude in small DRG neurons in the context of depolarization

T Patrick Harty and Stephen G Waxman*

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology and Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA, Rehabilitation Research Center, Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT 06516, USA

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Molecular Pain 2007, 3:12  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-3-12

Published: 31 May 2007

Abstract

Background

Small neurons of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) express five of the nine known voltage-gated sodium channels. Each channel has unique biophysical characteristics which determine how it contributes to the generation of action potentials (AP). To better understand how AP amplitude is maintained in nociceptive DRG neurons and their centrally projecting axons, which are subjected to depolarization within the dorsal horn, we investigated the dependence of AP amplitude on membrane potential, and how that dependence is altered by the presence or absence of sodium channel Nav1.8.

Results

In small neurons cultured from wild type (WT) adult mouse DRG, AP amplitude decreases as the membrane potential is depolarized from -90 mV to -30 mV. The decrease in amplitude is best fit by two Boltzmann equations, having V1/2 values of -73 and -37 mV. These values are similar to the V1/2 values for steady-state fast inactivation of tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-s) sodium channels, and the tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-r) Nav1.8 sodium channel, respectively. Addition of TTX eliminates the more hyperpolarized V1/2 component and leads to increasing AP amplitude for holding potentials of -90 to -60 mV. This increase is substantially reduced by the addition of potassium channel blockers. In neurons from Nav1.8(-/-) mice, the voltage-dependent decrease in AP amplitude is characterized by a single Boltzmann equation with a V1/2 value of -55 mV, suggesting a shift in the steady-state fast inactivation properties of TTX-s sodium channels. Transfection of Nav1.8(-/-) DRG neurons with DNA encoding Nav1.8 results in a membrane potential-dependent decrease in AP amplitude that recapitulates WT properties.

Conclusion

We conclude that the presence of Nav1.8 allows AP amplitude to be maintained in DRG neurons and their centrally projecting axons even when depolarized within the dorsal horn.