Voltage-gated sodium channels play an essential role in regulating the excitability of nociceptive primary afferent neurones. In particular the tetrodotoxin-sensitive (TTX-S) Na(V)1.7 and the tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) Na(V)1.8 and Na(V)1.9 channels have been suggested to play a role in inflammatory pain. Previous work has revealed acute administration of inflammatory mediators, such as Freund's complete adjuvant (FCA) or carrageenan caused an upregulation in the levels of Na(V)1.7 and Na(V)1.8 protein in DRG (dorsal root ganglia) tissue up to 4 days post-insult. In the present study, the expression of Na(V)1.7, Na(V)1.8 and Na(V)1.9 was examined over a 28 day timecourse during a rat model of FCA-induced chronic inflammatory joint pain. Using the retrograde tracer Fast Blue (FB) and specific Na(V)1.7, Na(V)1.8 and Na(V)1.9 sodium channel antibodies, immunohistochemical staining techniques were used to study sodium channel expression in a distinct population of L3-L5 knee joint afferent DRGs. In the ganglia, counts were made of positively labelled cells in the FB population. The results demonstrate that, following FCA injection, Navl.9 expression is upregulated at days 14, 21 and 28 post-FCA, with Na(V)1.7 and Na(V)1.8 showing increased channel expression at days 14 and 28. These observations are accompanied by a unilateral joint hypersensitivity in the FCA-injected knee indicated by a behavioural shift in weight distribution measured using an incapacitance tester. The increased presence of these channels suggests that Na(V)1.7, Na(V)1.8 and Na(V)1.9 play a role, at least in part, in the maintenance of chronic inflammatory pain several weeks after the initial insult. (C) 2007 European Federation of Chapters of the International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.