Alcohol-aggravated episodic pain in humans with SCN11A mutation and ALDH2 polymorphism.
Mutations in Nav1.9 encoded by SCN11A have been associated with episodic pain, small-fiber neuropathy and congenital insensitivity to pain. In this study, we collected and characterized one Chinese family with episodic pain. The SCN11A mutation (c.664C>A/p.Arg222Ser) was identified and cosegregated with the episodic pain phenotype. In addition, we found that alcohol intake triggered intense pain attacks and detected the ALDH2 polymorphism (c.1510G>A/p.Glu504Lys) in three patients with episodic pain. The alcohol-aggravated pain symptom and this ALDH2 polymorphism were also reconfirmed in our previously reported episodic pain patient with the Nav1.9 mutation (p.Ala808Gly, patient III-2 in HBBJ family). To assess the pathogenicity of the Nav1.9 mutation and the new trigger, we introduced a mutation (p.Ala796Gly) into the mouse (orthologous mutation in human is p.Ala808Gly). The alteration hyperpolarized channel activation, increased the residual current through non-inactivating channels, and induced hyperexcitability of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in Scn11a mice. The Scn11a mice showed increased sensitivity to mechanical, heat and cold stimuli, and hypersensitivity to acetaldehyde and formalin, which could account for the alcohol intake-induced pain phenotype in patients. Moreover, acetaldehyde increased the mutant mNav1.9 channel current and excitability of Scn11a mouse DRG neurons. Parecoxib (an anti-inflammatory medication) relieved the heat hypersensitivity in Scn11a mice not receiving inflammatory stimuli and significantly decreased the hyperexcitability of DRG neurons in Scn11a mice. These results indicated that Scn11a mice recapitulated many clinical features of patients and suggested that Nav1.9 channel contributes significantly to the inflammatory pain state.