PainRelief.com Interview with:
Rajesh Khanna, PhD
Professor and Vice Chair of Research, Department of Pharmacology,
Associate Director of Research, Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center
University of Arizona
Starting January 2022:
Professor, Department of Molecular Pathobiology
Director, NYU Pain Center
College of Dentistry New York University
PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Chronic pain conditions cause an immense burden on society due to their astonishingly high prevalence and lack of effective treatments. The National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain. Nearly 20-30% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid-involved overdoses and that number increased to nearly 70,000 in 2020. There is clearly an urgent need for non-addictive treatments for chronic pain.
The voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7 is preferentially expressed in the peripheral nervous system within ganglia associated with nociceptive pain. This channel modulates the threshold required to fire action potentials in response to stimuli and has been established as a key contributor to chronic pain. Chronic pain states can result from upregulated NaV1.7 expression which has been shown to occur in association with diabetic neuropathy, inflammation, sciatic nerve compression, lumbar disc herniation, and after spared nerve injury. The exact pathways leading to the dysregulation of NaV1.7 are poorly understood, but likely involve mechanisms related to its surface trafficking and regulation via protein-protein interactions.
Our previous work identified the collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2) as a novel regulator of NaV1.7 function and uncovered the logical coding of CRMP2’s regulatory functions. We found that if CRMP2 is phosphorylated by cyclin dependent kinase 5 at serine 522 and also modified by SUMOylation at lysine 374 by the SUMO conjugating enzyme Ubc9, then NaV1.7 is functional. When not SUMOylated, CRMP2 recruits the endocytic proteins Numb, Nedd4-2, and Eps15, triggering clathrin mediated endocytosis and internalization of NaV1.7. When not at the cell-surface, sodium currents are reduced, alleviating NaV1.7-associated chronic pain. This action of CRMP2 is highly selective for NaV1.7, as no effects on other voltage-gated sodium channel subtypes are observed.
Previous efforts to target NaV1.7 for pain relief have focused on development of direct channel blockers, but this approach has been unsuccessful. Disclosed reasons for failure of these NaV1.7-targeting drugs include issues with:
(a) central nervous system penetration,
(b) lack of selectivity (e.g., of Biogen’s Vixotrigine),
(c) inadequacy of pain models, and
(d) insufficient channel blockade.
These factors culminate in continued action potential firing and failure to relieve pain, which has led to skepticism regarding targeting of NaV1.7.
We hypothesized that targeting CRMP2 with a small molecule to prevent it’s SUMOylation would be a novel and effective approach to indirectly regulating NaV1.7 for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain.Continue reading