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A possible role for nerve growth factor in the augmentation of sodium channels in models of chronic pain.

H J Gould, T N Gould, J D England, D Paul, Z P Liu, S R Levinson

Brain Res., 2000 Jan 31 , 854, 19-29

Inflammation induces an upregulation of sodium channels in sensory neurons. This most likely occurs as a result of the retrograde transport of cytochemical mediators released during the inflammatory response. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the subcutaneous administration of one such mediator, nerve growth factor (NGF), on the production of sodium channels in neurons of the rat dorsal root ganglion. For this, hindpaw withdrawal from either a thermal or mechanical stimulus was measured in rats at selected intervals for up to 2 weeks following injections of NGF. Sodium channel augmentation was then examined in dorsal root ganglia using site-specific, anti-sodium channel antibodies. Both thermal and mechanical allodynia was observed between 3 and 12 h post-injection. The hyperalgesic response returned to baseline by approximately 24 h post-injection. Sodium channel labeling was found to increase dramatically in the small neurons of the associated dorsal root ganglia beginning at 23 h, reached maximum intensity by 1 week, and persisted for up to 3 months post-injection. Pre-blocking NGF with anti-NGF prevented the NGF-induced decrease in paw withdrawal latencies and significantly reduced the intensity of sodium channel labeling. The results indicate that NGF is an important mediator both in the development of acute hyperalgesia and in the stimulation of sodium channel production in dorsal root ganglia during inflammation.