Enhancing KCNQ channel activity improves neurobehavioral recovery after spinal cord injury

Zizhen Wu, Lin Li, Fuhua Xie, Guoying Xu, Danny Dang, Qing Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injury (SCI) usually leads to acute neuronal death and delayed secondary degeneration, resulting in sensory dysfunction, paralysis, and chronic pain. Excessive excitation is one of the critical factors leading to secondary neural damage initiated by various insults. KCNQ/Kv7 channels are highly expressed in spinal neurons and axons and play an important role in controlling their excitability. Enhancing KCNQ channel activity by using its specific opener retigabine could thus be a plausible treatment strategy to reduce the pathology after SCI. We produced contusive SCI at T10 in adult male rats, which then received 10 consecutive days' treatment with retigabine or vehicle starting 3 hours or 3 days after contusion. Two different concentrations and two different delivery methods were applied. Delivery of retigabine via Alzet osmotic pumps, but not intraperitoneal injections 3 hours after contusion, promoted recovery of locomotor function. Remarkably, retigabine delivery in both methods significantly attenuated the development of mechanical stimuli-induced hyperreflexia and spontaneous pain; however, no significant difference in the thermal threshold was observed. Although retigabine delivered 3 days after contusion significantly attenuated the development of mechanical hypersensitivity and spontaneous pain, the locomotor function is not improved by the delayed treatments. Finally, we found that early application of retigabine attenuates the inflammatory activity in the spinal cord and increases the survival of white matter after SCI. Our results suggest that decreasing neuronal excitability by targeting KCNQ/Kv7 channels at acute stage aids the recovery of locomotor function and attenuates the development of neuropathic pain after SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-80
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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