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Altered pain responses in mice lacking alpha 1E subunit of the voltage-dependent Ca2+ channel.

H Saegusa, T Kurihara, S Zong, O Minowa, A Kazuno , W Han, Y Matsuda, H Yamanaka, M Osanai, T Noda, T Tanabe

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 2000 May 23 , 97, 6132-7

alpha(1) subunit of the voltage-dependent Ca(2+) channel is essential for channel function and determines the functional specificity of various channel types. alpha(1E) subunit was originally identified as a neuron-specific one, but the physiological function of the Ca(2+) channel containing this subunit (alpha(1E) Ca(2+) channel) was not clear compared with other types of Ca(2+) channels because of the limited availability of specific blockers. To clarify the physiological roles of the alpha(1E) Ca(2+) channel, we have generated alpha(1E) mutant (alpha(1E)-/-) mice by gene targeting. The lacZ gene was inserted in-frame and used as a marker for alpha(1E) subunit expression. alpha(1E)-/- mice showed reduced spontaneous locomotor activities and signs of timidness, but other general behaviors were apparently normal. As involvement of alpha(1E) in pain transmission was suggested by localization analyses with 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl beta-d-galactopyranoside staining, we conducted several pain-related behavioral tests using the mutant mice. Although alpha(1E)+/- and alpha(1E)-/- mice exhibited normal pain behaviors against acute mechanical, thermal, and chemical stimuli, they both showed reduced responses to somatic inflammatory pain. alpha(1E)+/- mice showed reduced response to visceral inflammatory pain, whereas alpha(1E)-/- mice showed apparently normal response compared with that of wild-type mice. Furthermore, alpha(1E)-/- mice that had been presensitized with a visceral noxious conditioning stimulus showed increased responses to a somatic inflammatory pain, in marked contrast with the wild-type mice in which long-lasting effects of descending antinociceptive pathway were predominant. These results suggest that the alpha(1E) Ca(2 +) channel controls pain behaviors by both spinal and supraspinal mechanisms.