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The tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) voltage-gated sodium channel SNS/PN3 and the newly discovered NaN/SNS2 are expressed in sensory neurones, particularly in nociceptors. Using specific antibodies, we have studied, for the first time in humans, the presence of SNS/PN3 and NaN/SNS2 in peripheral nerves, including tissues from patients with chronic neurogenic pain. In brachial plexus injury patients, there was an acute decrease of SNS/PN3- and NaN/SNS2-like immunoreactivity in sensory cell bodies of cervical dorsal root ganglia (DRG) whose central axons had been avulsed from spinal cord, with gradual return of the immunoreactivity to control levels over months. In contrast, there was increased intensity of immunoreactivity to both channels in some peripheral nerve fibers just proximal to the site of injury in brachial plexus trunks, and in neuromas. These findings suggest that the expression of these sodium channels in neuronal cell bodies is reduced after spinal cord root avulsion injury in man, but that pre-synthesized channel proteins may undergo translocation with accumulation at sites of nerve injury, as in animal models of peripheral axotomy. The latter may contribute to positive symptoms, as our patients all showed a positive Tinel's sign. Nerve terminals in distal limb neuromas and skin from patients with chronic local hyperalgesia and allodynia all showed marked increases of SNS/PN3-immunoreactive fibers, but little or no NaN/SNS2-immunoreactivity, suggesting that the former may be related to the persistent hypersensitive state. Axonal immunoreactivity to both channels was similar to control nerves in sural nerve biopsies in a selection of neuropathies, irrespective of nerve inflammation, demyelination or spontaneous pain, including a patient with congenital insensitivity to pain. Our studies suggest that the best target for SNS/PN3 blocking agents is likely to be chronic local hypersensitivity.


Journal article



Publication Date





41 - 50


Adult, Amino Acid Sequence, Antibody Specificity, Chronic Disease, Female, Ganglia, Spinal, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Male, Middle Aged, Molecular Sequence Data, Neuroma, Pain, Peripheral Nerve Injuries, Peripheral Nerves, Skin, Sodium Channels, Sural Nerve