Dorsal root ganglion neurons express an array of sodium channel isoforms allowing precise control of excitability. An increasing body of literature indicates that regulation of firing behaviour in these cells is linked to their patterns of expression of specific sodium channel isoforms, which have been discovered to possess distinct biophysical characteristics. The pattern of expression of sodium channels differs in different subclasses of DRG neurons and is not fixed but, on the contrary, changes in response to a variety of disease insults. Moreover, modulation of channels by their environment has been found to play an important role in the response of these neurons to stimuli. In this review we illustrate how excitability can be finely tuned to provide contrasting firing templates in different subclasses of DRG neurons by selective deployment of various sodium channel isoforms, by plasticity of expression of these proteins, and by interactions of these sodium channel isoforms with each other and with other modulatory molecules.
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