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Neuron. 2004 Jan 8;41(1):127-38.

Cell-specific alternative splicing increases calcium channel current density in the pain pathway.

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Department of Neuroscience, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


N-type calcium channels are critical for pain transduction. Inhibitors of these channels are powerful analgesics, but clinical use of current N-type blockers remains limited by undesirable actions in other regions of the nervous system. We now demonstrate that a unique splice isoform of the N-type channel is restricted exclusively to dorsal root ganglia. By a combination of functional and molecular analyses at the single-cell level, we show that the DRG-specific exon, e37a, is preferentially present in Ca(V)2.2 mRNAs expressed in neurons that contain nociceptive markers, VR1 and Na(V)1.8. Cell-specific inclusion of exon 37a correlates closely with significantly larger N-type currents in nociceptive neurons. This unique splice isoform of the N-type channel could represent a novel target for pain management.

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