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J Clin Invest. 2018 Dec 3;128(12):5434-5447. doi: 10.1172/JCI122481. Epub 2018 Nov 5.

A disease mutation reveals a role for NaV1.9 in acute itch.

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Department of Physiology.
Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Department of Basic and Applied Medical Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


Itch (pruritis) and pain represent two distinct sensory modalities; yet both have evolved to alert us to potentially harmful external stimuli. Compared with pain, our understanding of itch is still nascent. Here, we report a new clinical case of debilitating itch and altered pain perception resulting from the heterozygous de novo p.L811P gain-of-function mutation in NaV1.9, a voltage-gated sodium (NaV) channel subtype that relays sensory information from the periphery to the spine. To investigate the role of NaV1.9 in itch, we developed a mouse line in which the channel is N-terminally tagged with a fluorescent protein, thereby enabling the reliable identification and biophysical characterization of NaV1.9-expressing neurons. We also assessed NaV1.9 involvement in itch by using a newly created NaV1.9-/- and NaV1.9L799P/WT mouse model. We found that NaV1.9 is expressed in a subset of nonmyelinated, nonpeptidergic small-diameter dorsal root ganglia (DRGs). In WT DRGs, but not those of NaV1.9-/- mice, pruritogens altered action potential parameters and NaV channel gating properties. Additionally, NaV1.9-/- mice exhibited a strong reduction in acute scratching behavior in response to pruritogens, whereas NaV1.9L799P/WT mice displayed increased spontaneous scratching. Altogether, our data suggest an important contribution of NaV1.9 to itch signaling.


Genetic diseases; Ion channels; Neuroscience

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