The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Small RNAs control sodium channel expression, nociceptor excitability, and pain thresholds.

PMID 20702715


To examine the role of small RNAs in peripheral pain pathways, we deleted the enzyme Dicer in mouse postmitotic damage-sensing neurons. We used a Nav1.8-Cre mouse to target those nociceptors important for inflammatory pain. The conditional null mice were healthy with a normal number of sensory neurons and normal acute pain thresholds. Behavioral studies showed that inflammatory pain was attenuated or abolished. Inflammatory mediators failed to enhance excitability of Nav1.8+ sensory neurons from null mutant mice. Acute noxious input into the dorsal horn of the spinal cord was apparently normal, but the increased input associated with inflammatory pain measured using c-Fos staining was diminished. Microarray and quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis showed that Dicer deletion lead to the upregulation of many broadly expressed mRNA transcripts in dorsal root ganglia. By contrast, nociceptor-associated mRNA transcripts (e.g., Nav1.8, P2xr3, and Runx-1) were downregulated, resulting in lower levels of protein and functional expression. qRT-PCR analysis also showed lowered levels of expression of nociceptor-specific pre-mRNA transcripts. MicroRNA microarray and deep sequencing identified known and novel nociceptor microRNAs in mouse Nav1.8+ sensory neurons that may regulate nociceptor gene expression.