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The voltage-gated sodium channel (NaV), NaV1.1, is well-studied in the central nervous system; conversely, its contribution to peripheral sensory neuron function is more enigmatic. Here, we identify a new role for NaV1.1 in mammalian proprioception. RNAscope analysis and in vitro patch-clamp recordings in genetically identified mouse proprioceptors show ubiquitous channel expression and significant contributions to intrinsic excitability. Notably, genetic deletion of NaV1.1 in sensory neurons caused profound and visible motor coordination deficits in conditional knockout mice of both sexes, similar to conditional Piezo2-knockout animals, suggesting that this channel is a major contributor to sensory proprioceptive transmission. Ex vivo muscle afferent recordings from conditional knockout mice found that loss of NaV1.1 leads to inconsistent and unreliable proprioceptor firing characterized by action potential failures during static muscle stretch; conversely, afferent responses to dynamic vibrations were unaffected. This suggests that while a combination of Piezo2 and other NaV isoforms is sufficient to elicit activity in response to transient stimuli, NaV1.1 is required for transmission of receptor potentials generated during sustained muscle stretch. Impressively, recordings from afferents of heterozygous conditional knockout animals were similarly impaired, and heterozygous conditional knockout mice also exhibited motor behavioral deficits. Thus, NaV1.1 haploinsufficiency in sensory neurons impairs both proprioceptor function and motor behaviors. Importantly, human patients harboring NaV1.1 loss-of-function mutations often present with motor delays and ataxia; therefore, our data suggest that sensory neuron dysfunction contributes to the clinical manifestations of neurological disorders in which NaV1.1 function is compromised. Collectively, we present the first evidence that NaV1.1 is essential for mammalian proprioceptive signaling and behaviors.

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National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Biological Sciences; Chemistry