Sodium channelopathies and pain

  • Angelika LampertEmail author
  • Andrias O. O’Reilly
  • Peter Reeh
  • Andreas Leffler
Ion Channels, Receptors and Transporters


Chronic pain often represents a severe, debilitating condition. Up to 10% of the worldwide population are affected, and many patients are poorly responsive to current treatment strategies. Nociceptors detect noxious conditions to produce the sensation of pain, and this signal is conveyed to the CNS by means of action potentials. The fast upstroke of action potentials is mediated by voltage-gated sodium channels, of which nine pore-forming α-subunits (Nav1.1–1.9) have been identified. Heterogeneous functional properties and distinct expression patterns denote specialized functions of each subunit. The Nav1.7 and Nav1.8 subunits have emerged as key molecules involved in peripheral pain processing and in the development of an increased pain sensitivity associated with inflammation and tissue injury. Several mutations in the SCN9A gene encoding for Nav1.7 have been identified as important cellular substrates for different heritable pain syndromes. This review aims to cover recent progress on our understanding of how biophysical properties of mutant Nav1.7 translate into an aberrant electrogenesis of nociceptors. We also recapitulate the role of Nav1.8 for peripheral pain processing and of additional sodium channelopathies which have been linked to disorders with pain as a significant component.


Sodium channel Mutation Nav1.7 Pain Patch-clamp Three dimensional computer modeling 



We thank Julian Knott for design advice. ALa was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft LA2740/2-1 and Robert-Bosch-Foundation: Fast Track Program. AOR was supported in part by a grant from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council to B.A. Wallace. PR was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft KFO 130 and ALe from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft NA350/3-2 and KFO 130.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angelika Lampert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrias O. O’Reilly
    • 2
  • Peter Reeh
    • 1
  • Andreas Leffler
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and PathophysiologyFriedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-NurembergErlangenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Crystallography, Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of AnesthesiologyFriedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-NurembergErlangenGermany

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