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Neuroscience. 2002;111(3):435-41.

Reducing agent dithiothreitol facilitates activity of the capsaicin receptor VR-1.

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  • 1Institute of Physiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic.


The vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1) is expressed in a sub-population of small dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurones in mammals and serves as the common transducer of the pain-producing signals, such as noxious heat, acids and capsaicin [Caterina et al., Nature 389 (1997) 816-824; Tominaga et al., Neuron 21 (1998) 531-543]. On the extracellular side, VR1 has three cysteine residues at positions 616, 621 and 634. Here we report that dithiothreitol (DTT) (2-60 mM), an agent that maintains -SH groups of cysteines in a reduced state, greatly facilitates membrane currents induced by noxious heat or capsaicin (1 microM) in cultured DRG neurones from the rat and in VR1-transfected HEK293 cells. The effects of DTT are concentration-dependent and fully reversible. We suggest that the ratio between free sulfhydryl groups and disulfide bonds of the cysteine residues of VR1 pre-sets sensitivity of primary nociceptors to algogens and may represent a new target for treating some pain states in humans.

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