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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Nov 6;98(23):13373-8.

Distinct potassium channels on pain-sensing neurons.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.


Differential expression of ion channels contributes functional diversity to sensory neuron signaling. We find nerve injury induced by the Chung model of neuropathic pain leads to striking reductions in voltage-gated K(+) (Kv) channel subunit expression in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons, suggesting a potential molecular mechanism for hyperexcitability of injured nerves. Moreover, specific classes of DRG neurons express distinct Kv channel subunit combinations. Importantly, Kv1.4 is the sole Kv1 alpha subunit expressed in smaller diameter neurons, suggesting that homomeric Kv1.4 channels predominate in A delta and C fibers arising from these cells. These neurons are presumably nociceptors, because they also express the VR-1 capsaicin receptor, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and/or Na(+) channel SNS/PN3/Nav1.8. In contrast, larger diameter neurons associated with mechanoreception and proprioception express high levels of Kv1.1 and Kv1.2 without Kv1.4 or other Kv1 alpha subunits, suggesting that heteromers of these subunits predominate on large, myelinated afferent axons that extend from these cells.

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