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The potassium channel Kv1.6 has recently been implicated as a major modulatory channel subunit expressed in primary nociceptors. Furthermore, its expression at juxtaparanodes (JXP) of myelinated primary afferents is induced following traumatic nerve injury as part of an endogenous mechanism to reduce hyperexcitability and pain-related hypersensitivity. In this study we compared two mouse models of constitutive Kv1.6 knock-out achieved by different methods: traditional gene trap via homologous recombination, and CRISPR-mediated excision. Both Kv1.6 knock-out mouse lines exhibited an unexpected reduction in sensitivity to noxious heat stimuli, to differing extents: the Kv1.6 mice produced via gene trap had a far more significant hyposensitivity. These mice (Kcna6lacZ ) expressed the bacterial reporter enzyme LacZ in place of Kv1.6 as a result of the gene trap mechanism and we found that their central primary afferent presynaptic terminals developed a striking neurodegenerative phenotype involving accumulation of lipid species, development of 'meganeurites' and impaired transmission to dorsal horn wide dynamic range (WDR) neurons. The anatomical defects were absent in CRISPR-mediated Kv1.6 knock-out mice (Kcna6 -/-) but were present in a third mouse model expressing exogenous LacZ in nociceptors under the control of a Nav1.8-promoted Cre recombinase. LacZ reporter enzymes are thus intrinsically neurotoxic to sensory neurons and may induce pathological defects in transgenic mice, which has confounding implications for the interpretation of gene knock-outs using lacZ Nonetheless, in Kcna6 -/- mice not affected by LacZ, we demonstrated a significant role for Kv1.6 regulating acute noxious thermal sensitivity, and both mechanical and thermal pain-related hypersensitivity after nerve injury.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTIn recent decades the expansion of technologies to experimentally manipulate the rodent genome has contributed significantly to the field of neuroscience. While introduction of enzymatic or fluorescent reporter proteins to label neuronal populations is now commonplace, often potential toxicity effects are not fully considered. We show a role of Kv1.6 in acute and neuropathic pain states through analysis of two mouse models lacking Kv1.6 potassium channels, one with additional expression of LacZ and one without. We show that LacZ reporter enzymes induce unintended defects in sensory neurons, with an impact on behavioural data outcomes. To summarise we highlight the importance of: Kv1.6 in recovery of normal sensory function following nerve injury, and careful interpretation of data from LacZ reporter models.

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Journal article


J Neurosci

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