Identification and targeting of a unique NaV1.7 domain driving chronic pain

Kimberly Gomez, Harrison J. Stratton, Paz Duran, Santiago Loya, Cheng Tang, Aida Calderon-Rivera, Liberty François-Moutal, May Khanna, Cynthia L. Madura, Shizhen Luo, Bryan McKiver, Edward Choi, Dongzhi Ran, Lisa Boinon, Samantha Perez-Miller, M. Imad Damaj, Aubin Moutal, Rajesh Khanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small molecules directly targeting the voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) NaV1.7 have not been clinically successful. We reported that preventing the addition of a small ubiquitin-like modifier onto the NaV1.7-interacting cytosolic collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) blocked NaV1.7 function and was antinociceptive in rodent models of neuropathic pain. Here, we discovered a CRMP2 regulatory sequence (CRS) unique to NaV1.7 that is essential for this regulatory coupling. CRMP2 preferentially bound to the NaV1.7 CRS over other NaV isoforms. Substitution of the NaV1.7 CRS with the homologous domains from the other eight VGSC isoforms decreased NaV1.7 currents. A cell-penetrant decoy peptide corresponding to the NaV1.7-CRS reduced NaV1.7 currents and trafficking, decreased presynaptic NaV1.7 expression, reduced spinal CGRP release, and reversed nerve injury-induced mechanical allodynia. Importantly, the NaV1.7-CRS peptide did not produce motor impairment, nor did it alter physiological pain sensation, which is essential for survival. As a proof-of-concept for a NaV1.7 -targeted gene therapy, we packaged a plasmid encoding the NaV1.7-CRS in an AAV virus. Treatment with this virus reduced NaV1.7 function in both rodent and rhesus macaque sensory neurons. This gene therapy reversed and prevented mechanical allodynia in a model of nerve injury and reversed mechanical and cold allodynia in a model of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. These findings support the conclusion that the CRS domain is a targetable region for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2217800120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 8 2023


  • CRMP2
  • Na1.7
  • SUMO
  • chronic pain
  • gene therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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