Abstract Patients with bi-allelic loss of function mutations in the voltage-gated sodium channel Nav1.7 present with congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP), whilst low threshold mechanosensation is reportedly normal. Using psychophysics (n = 6 CIP participants and n = 86 healthy controls) and facial EMG (n = 3 CIP participants and n = 8 healthy controls) we have found that these patients also have abnormalities in the encoding of affective touch which is mediated by the specialised afferents; C-low threshold mechanoreceptors (C-LTMRs). In the mouse we found that C-LTMRs express high levels of Nav1.7. Genetic loss or selective pharmacological inhibition of Nav1.7 in C-LTMRs resulted in a significant reduction in the total sodium current density, an increased mechanical threshold and reduced sensitivity to non-noxious cooling. The behavioural consequence of loss of Nav1.7 in C-LTMRs in mice was an elevation in the von Frey mechanical threshold and less sensitivity to cooling on a thermal gradient. Nav1.7 is therefore not only essential for normal pain perception but also for normal C-LTMR function, cool sensitivity and affective touch.
Oxford University Press (OUP)