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The α2δ-1 subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels is upregulated after sensory nerve injury and is also the therapeutic target of gabapentinoid drugs. It is therefore likely to play a key role in the development of neuropathic pain. In this study, we have examined mice in which α2δ-1 gene expression is disrupted, to determine whether α2δ-1 is involved in various modalities of nociception, and for the development of behavioral hypersensitivity after partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSNL). We find that naive α2δ-1(-/-) mice show a marked behavioral deficit in mechanical and cold sensitivity, but no change in thermal nociception threshold. The lower mechanical sensitivity is mirrored by a reduced in vivo electrophysiological response of dorsal horn wide dynamic range neurons. The CaV2.2 level is reduced in brain and spinal cord synaptosomes from α2δ-1(-/-) mice, and α2δ-1(-/-) DRG neurons exhibit lower calcium channel current density. Furthermore, a significantly smaller number of DRG neurons respond to the TRPM8 agonist menthol. After PSNL, α2δ-1(-/-) mice show delayed mechanical hypersensitivity, which only develops at 11 d after surgery, whereas in wild-type littermates it is maximal at the earliest time point measured (3 d). There is no compensatory upregulation of α2δ-2 or α2δ-3 after PSNL in α2δ-1(-/-) mice, and other transcripts, including neuropeptide Y and activating transcription factor-3, are upregulated normally. Furthermore, the ability of pregabalin to alleviate mechanical hypersensitivity is lost in PSNL α2δ-1(-/-) mice. Thus, α2δ-1 is essential for rapid development of mechanical hypersensitivity in a nerve injury model of neuropathic pain.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





16412 - 16426


Animals, Calcium Channels, Cold Temperature, Ganglia, Spinal, Hyperalgesia, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Neuralgia, Pain Threshold, Peripheral Nerve Injuries, Physical Stimulation, Sciatic Nerve, Sensory Receptor Cells