We have previously reported that enhanced excitability of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons contributes to the development of bone cancer pain, which severely decreases the quality of life of cancer patients. Nav1.8, a tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) sodium channel, contributes most of the sodium current underlying the action potential upstroke and accounts for most of the current in later spikes in a train. We speculate that the Nav1.8 sodium channel is a potential candidate responsible for the enhanced excitability of DRG neurons in rats with bone cancer pain. Here, using electrophysiology, Western blot and behavior assays, we documented that the current density of TTX-R sodium channels, especially the Nav1.8 channel, increased significantly in DRG neurons of rats with cancer-induced bone pain. This increase may be due to an increased expression of Nav1.8 on the membrane of DRG neurons. Accordantly, blockade of Nav1.8 sodium channels by its selective blocker A-803467 significantly alleviated the cancer-induced mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia in rats. Taken together, these results suggest that functional upregulation of Nav1.8 channels on the membrane of DRG neurons contributes to the development of cancer-induced bone pain.
Primary and metastatic cancers that affect bones are frequently associated with severe and intractable pain. The mechanisms underlying the development of bone cancer pain are largely unknown. In the present study, we investigated whether inhibition of KCNQ/M (Kv7) potassium channels in the spinal cord contributes to the development of bone cancer pain via sensitization of dorsal horn wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons. Using a rat model of bone cancer pain based on intratibial injection of MRMT-1 tumor cells, we observed a significant increase in C-fiber responses of dorsal horn WDR neurons in the MRMT-1 injected rats, indicating sensitization of spinal WDR neurons in bone cancer rats. Furthermore, we discovered that blockade of KCNQ/M channels in the spinal cord by local administration of XE-991, a specific KCNQ/M channel blocker, caused a robust increase in excitability of dorsal horn WDR neurons, while, producing obvious pain hypersensitivity in normal rats. On the contrary, activation of spinal KCNQ/M channels by retigabine, a selective KCNQ/M channel opener, not only inhibited the bone cancer‑induced hyperexcitability of dorsal horn WDR neurons, but also alleviated mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia in the bone cancer rats, while all of these effects of retigabine could be blocked by KCNQ/M-channel antagonist XE-991. All things considered, these results suggest that suppression of KCNQ/M channels in the spinal cord likely contributes to the development of bone cancer pain via sensitization of dorsal horn WDR neurons in rats following tumor cell inoculation.
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