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The small fiber neuropathy NaV1.7 I228M mutation: impaired neurite integrity via bioenergetic and mitotoxic mechanisms, protection by dexpramipexole


Senior Member
The small fiber neuropathy NaV1.7 I228M mutation: impaired neurite integrity via bioenergetic and mitotoxic mechanisms, and protection by dexpramipexole

fev 2020

Gain-of-function variants in voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7 that increase firing frequency and spontaneous firing of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons have recently been identified in 5–10% of patients with idiopathic small fiber neuropathy (I-SFN). Our previous in vitro observations suggest that enhanced sodium channel activity can contribute to a decrease in length of peripheral sensory axons. We have hypothesized that sustained sodium influx due to the expression of SFN-associated sodium channel variants may trigger an energetic deficit in neurons that contributes to degeneration and loss of nerve fibers in SFN. Using an ATP FRET biosensor, we now demonstrate reduced steady-state levels of ATP and markedly faster ATP decay in response to membrane depolarization in cultured DRG neurons expressing an SFN-associated variant NaV1.7, I228M, compared with wild-type neurons. We also observed that I228M neurons show a significant reduction in mitochondrial density and size, indicating dysfunctional mitochondria and a reduced bioenergetic capacity. Finally, we report that exposure to dexpramipexole, a drug that improves mitochondrial energy metabolism, increases the neurite length of I228M-expressing neurons.

Our data suggest that expression of gain-of-function variants of NaV1.7 can damage mitochondria and compromise cellular capacity for ATP production. The resulting bioenergetic crisis can consequently contribute to loss of axons in SFN. We suggest that, in addition to interventions that reduce ionic disturbance caused by mutant NaV1.7 channels, an alternative therapeutic strategy might target the bioenergetic burden and mitochondrial damage that occur in SFN associated with NaV1.7 gain-of-function mutations.
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