Dorsal root ganglion neurons show increased expression of the calcium channel alpha2delta-1 subunit following partial sciatic nerve injury

R A Newton, S Bingham, P C Case, G J Sanger, S N Lawson
Brain Research. Molecular Brain Research 2001 November 1, 95 (1-2): 1-8
Neuropathic pain is associated with changes in the electrophysiological and neurochemical properties of injured primary afferent neurons. A mRNA differential display study in rat L(4/5) dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) revealed upregulation of the calcium channel alpha2delta-1 subunit 2 weeks after partial sciatic nerve ligation (Seltzer model of neuropathic pain). The upregulated transcript appeared to represent previously unidentified sequence from the 3'-untranslated region of rat alpha2delta-1 mRNA. In situ hybridization using L(5) DRGs from sham operated rats showed that 73, 40 and 19% of small (<700 microm(2)), medium (700-1100 microm(2)) and large (>1100 microm(2)) neuronal profiles, respectively, expressed alpha2delta-1 mRNA. Two weeks following nerve injury there was a significant ipsilateral increase, both in the percentage of DRG neurons expressing alpha2delta-1 mRNA and in the intensity of the hybridization signal. Comparison of this ipsilateral expression with that in sham animals, revealed that for small, medium and large neurons, respectively, the proportion of neurons labelled increased by 1.2-, 1.8- and 2.7-fold, while the hybridization signal in alpha2delta-1-labelled neurons increased by 2.8-, 2.5- and 3.7-fold. The most intensely labelled neuronal profiles in ipsilateral, sham and contralateral DRGs, were generally those with small cross-sectional areas. The alpha2delta-1 auxiliary subunit is known to modulate calcium channel function in heterologous expression systems via its association with the pore-forming alpha1 calcium channel subunit. Therefore the increased levels of this subunit in the populations of primary afferents described may, via modulation of calcium-dependent processes such as neurotransmitter release and neuronal excitability, influence the processing of sensory information.

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