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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 May 19;106(20):8374-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812675106. Epub 2009 May 5.

Clioquinol and pyrithione activate TRPA1 by increasing intracellular Zn2+.

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  • 1Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, King's College London, London, United Kingdom.


The antifungal and amoebicidal drug clioquinol (CQ) was withdrawn from the market when it was linked to an epidemic of subacute myelo-optico-neuropathy (SMON). Clioquinol exerts its anti-parasitic actions by acting as a Cu/Zn chelator and ionophore. Here we show that local injections of CQ produce mechanical hyperalgesia and cold hypersensitivity through a mechanism involving TRPA1 in mice. We also show that CQ activates TRPA1 in a Zn(2+)-dependent manner. Using a different Zn(2+)-ionophore, zinc pyrithione (ZnPy), we demonstrate that low, nanomolar concentrations of intracellular Zn(2+) ([Zn(2+)](i)) stimulate TRPA1. Direct application of Zn(2+) to the intracellular face of excised, inside-out patches activates TRPA1 with an EC(50) value of 7.5 +/- 1 nM. TRPA1 is expressed in a subpopulation of nociceptive dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, where it acts as a sensory receptor for environmental irritants and oxidants. Using cultured DRG neurons from wild-type and TRPA1-deficient mice, we demonstrate that TRPA1 is the principal excitatory receptor for increased [Zn(2+)](i) in DRG neurons. In conclusion, we have discovered that TRPA1 acts a sensor of intracellular Zn(2+), and that Zn(2+) ionophores, such as CQ and ZnPy, activate TRPA1 by increasing [Zn(2+)](i). We also demonstrate that CQ-evoked mechanical hyperalgesia and cold allodynia require TRPA1 in vivo.

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