Regulatory Role of Voltage-Gated Na Channel β Subunits in Sensory Neurons.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Front Pharmacol, Volume 2, p.70 (2011)


<p>Voltage-gated sodium Na(+) channels are membrane-bound proteins incorporating aqueous conduction pores that are highly selective for sodium Na(+) ions. The opening of these channels results in the rapid influx of Na(+) ions that depolarize the cell and drive the rapid upstroke of nerve and muscle action potentials. While the concept of a Na(+)-selective ion channel had been formulated in the 1940s, it was not until the 1980s that the biochemical properties of the 260-kDa and 36-kDa auxiliary β subunits (β(1), β(2)) were first described. Subsequent cloning and heterologous expression studies revealed that the α subunit forms the core of the channel and is responsible for both voltage-dependent gating and ionic selectivity. To date, 10 isoforms of the Na(+) channel α subunit have been identified that vary in their primary structures, tissue distribution, biophysical properties, and sensitivity to neurotoxins. Four β subunits (β(1)-β(4)) and two splice variants (β(1A), β(1B)) have been identified that modulate the subcellular distribution, cell surface expression, and functional properties of the α subunits. The purpose of this review is to provide a broad overview of β subunit expression and function in peripheral sensory neurons and examine their contributions to neuropathic pain.</p>

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