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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Sep 2019 - 27 Sep 2019

Animal Studies

2019 Jan-Dec

Mol Pain


Rat NaV1.7 loss-of-function genetic model: deficient nociceptive and neuropathic pain behavior with retained olfactory function and intra-epidermal nerve fibers.


Grubinska B, Chen L, Alsaloum M, Rampal N, Matson D, Yang C, Taborn K, Zhang M, Youngblood B, Liu D, Galbreath E, Allred S, Lepherd M, Ferrando R, Kornecook T, Lehto S G, Waxman S, Moyer BD, Dib-Hajj S, Gingras J
Mol Pain. 2019 Jan-Dec; 15:1744806919881846.
PMID: 31550995.


Recapitulating human disease pathophysiology using genetic animal models is a powerful approach to enable mechanistic understanding of genotype-phenotype relationships for drug development. NaV1.7 is a sodium channel expressed in the peripheral nervous system with strong human genetic validation as a pain target. Efforts to identify novel analgesics that are non-addictive, resulted in industry exploration of a class of sulfonamide compounds that bind to the fourth voltage-sensor domain of NaV1.7. Due to sequence differences in this region, sulfonamide blockers generally are potent on human but not rat NaV1.7 channels. To test sulfonamide-based chemical matter in rat models of pain, we generated a humanized NaV1.7 rat expressing a chimeric NaV1.7 protein containing the sulfonamide-binding site of the human gene sequence as a replacement for the equivalent rat sequence. Unexpectedly, upon transcription the human insert was spliced out, resulting in a premature stop codon. Using a validated antibody, NaV1.7 protein was confirmed to be lost in the brainstem, dorsal root ganglia (DRG), sciatic nerve and gastrointestinal tissue but not in nasal turbinates or olfactory bulb in rats homozygous for the knock-in allele (HOM-KI). HOM-KI rats exhibited normal intraepidermal nerve fiber density with reduced tetrodotoxin-sensitive current density and action potential firing in small diameter DRG neurons. HOM-KI rats did not exhibit nociceptive pain responses in hot plate or capsaicin-induced flinching assays and did not exhibit neuropathic pain responses following spinal nerve ligation. Consistent with expression of chimeric NaV1.7 in olfactory tissue, HOM-KI rats retained olfactory function. This new genetic model highlights the necessity of NaV1.7 for pain behavior in rats and indicates that sufficient inhibition of NaV1.7 in humans may reduce pain in neuropathic conditions. Due to preserved olfactory function, this rat model represents an alternative to global NaV1.7 knockout mice that require time-intensive hand feeding during early postnatal development.