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Papers of the Week

Papers: 26 Dec 2020 - 1 Jan 2021

Human Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2020 Dec 22

J Biol Chem

Phosphorylation of a chronic pain mutation in the voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7 increases voltage sensitivity.


Kerth CM, Hautvast P, Körner J, Lampert A, Meents JE
J Biol Chem. 2020 Dec 22.
PMID: 33361158.


Mutations in voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) can cause alterations in pain sensation, such as chronic pain diseases like inherited erythromelalgia (IEM). The IEM-causing mutation Nav1.7 p.I848T is known to induce a hyperpolarized shift in the voltage dependence of activation in Nav1.7. So far, however, the mechanism to explain this increase in voltage sensitivity remains unknown. In the present study, we show that phosphorylation of the newly introduced Thr residue explains the functional change. We expressed either wild type human Nav1.7, the I848T mutant, or other mutations in HEK293T cells and performed whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology. As the insertion of a Thr residue potentially creates a novel phosphorylation site for Ser/Thr kinases and because Nav1.7 had been shown in Xenopus oocytes to be affected by protein kinases C (PKC) and A (PKA), we used different non-selective and selective kinase inhibitors and activators to test the effect of phosphorylation on Nav1.7 in a human system. We identify PKC, but not PKA, to be responsible for the phosphorylation of T848 and thereby for the shift in voltage sensitivity. Introducing a negatively charged amino acid instead of the putative phosphorylation site mimics the effect on voltage gating to a lesser extent. 3D modelling using the published cryo-EM structure of human Nav1.7 showed that introduction of this negatively charged site seems to alter the interaction of this residue with surrounding amino acids and thus to influence channel function. These results could provide new opportunities for the development of novel treatment options for chronic pain patients.