Sensory neurons from Nf1 haploinsufficient mice exhibit increased excitability.

Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, 46202, USA.
Journal of Neurophysiology (Impact Factor: 3.04). 01/2006; 94(6):3670-6. DOI: 10.1152/jn.00489.2005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common genetic disorder characterized by tumor formation. People with NF1 also can experience more intense painful responses to stimuli, such as minor trauma, than normal. NF1 results from a heterozygous mutation of the NF1 gene, leading to decreased levels of neurofibromin, the protein product of the NF1 gene. Neurofibromin is a guanosine triphosphatase activating protein (GAP) for Ras and accelerates the conversion of active Ras-GTP to inactive Ras-GDP; therefore mutation of the NF1 gene frequently results in an increase in activity of the Ras transduction cascade. Using patch-clamp electrophysiological techniques, we examined the excitability of capsaicin-sensitive sensory neurons isolated from the dorsal root ganglia of adult mice with a heterozygous mutation of the Nf1 gene (Nf1+/-), analogous to the human mutation, in comparison to wildtype sensory neurons. Sensory neurons from adult Nf1+/- mice generated a more than twofold higher number of action potentials in response to a ramp of depolarizing current as wild-type neurons. Consistent with the greater number of action potentials, Nf1+/- neurons had lower firing thresholds, lower rheobase currents, and shorter firing latencies than wild-type neurons. Interestingly, nerve growth factor augmented the excitability of wild-type neurons in a concentration-related manner but did not further alter the excitability of the Nf1+/- sensory neurons. These data clearly suggest that GAPs, such as neurofibromin, can play a key role in the excitability of nociceptive sensory neurons. This increased excitability may explain the painful conditions experienced by people with NF1.

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    ABSTRACT: Major aspects of neuronal function are regulated by Ca(2+) including neurotransmitter release, excitability, developmental plasticity, and gene expression. We reported previously that sensory neurons isolated from a mouse model with a heterozygous mutation of the Nf1 gene (Nf1+/-) exhibited both greater excitability and evoked release of neuropeptides compared to wildtype mice. Furthermore, augmented voltage-dependent sodium currents but not potassium currents contribute to the enhanced excitability. To determine the mechanisms giving rise to the enhanced release of substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide in the Nf1+/- sensory neurons, the potential differences in the total voltage-dependent calcium current (ICa) as well as the contributions of individual Ca(2+) channel subtypes were assessed. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from small diameter capsaicin-sensitive sensory neurons demonstrated that the average peak ICa densities were not different between the two genotypes. However, by using selective blockers of channel subtypes, the current density of N-type (Cav2.2) ICa was significantly larger in Nf1+/- neurons compared to wildtype neurons. In contrast, there were no significant differences in L-, P/Q- and R-type currents between the two genotypes. Quantitative real-time PCR measurements made from the isolated but intact dorsal root ganglia indicated that N-type (Cav2.2) and P/Q-type (Cav2.1) Ca(2+) channels exhibited the highest mRNA expression levels although there were no significant differences in the levels of mRNA expression between the genotypes. These results suggest that the augmented N-type (Cav2.2) ICa observed in the Nf1+/- sensory neurons does not result from genomic differences but may reflect post-translational or some other non-genomic modifications. Thus, our results demonstrate that sensory neurons from Nf1+/- mice, exhibit increased N-type ICa and likely account for the increased release of substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide that occurs in Nf1+/- sensory neurons.
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofibromatosis type I (Nf1) is a GTPase activating protein (GAP) that inactivates the oncoprotein Ras and plays important roles in nervous system development and learning. Alternative exon 23a falls within the Nf1 GAP domain and is tightly regulated in favor of skipping in neurons; however, its biological function is not fully understood.Here, we generated mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells with constitutive endogenous Nf1 exon 23a inclusion, termed Nf1 23aIN/23aIN cells, by mutating the splicing signals surrounding the exon to better match consensus sequences. We also made Nf1 23aΔ/23aΔ cells lacking the exon. Active Ras levels are high in WT and Nf1 23aIN/23aIN ES cells, where Nf1 exon 23a inclusion is high, and low in Nf1 23aΔ/23aΔ cells. Upon neuronal differentiation, active Ras levels are high in Nf1 23aIN/23aIN cells, where exon inclusion remains high, but Ras activation is low in the other two genotypes, where the exon is skipped. Signaling downstream of Ras is significantly elevated in Nf1 23aIN/23aIN neurons. These results suggest that exon 23a suppresses the Ras-GAP activity of Nf1. Therefore, regulation of Nf1 exon 23a inclusion serves as a mechanism for providing appropriate levels of Ras signaling, and may be important in modulating Ras-related neuronal functions.
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