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Exp Brain Res. 2009 Jun;196(1):31-44. doi: 10.1007/s00221-009-1808-3. Epub 2009 Apr 30.

Differential effects of TRPV channel block on polymodal activation of rat cutaneous nociceptors in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Universit√§tsstrasse 17, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.


The capsaicin receptor TRPV1 is a polymodal sensory transducer molecule in the pain pathway. TRPV1 integrates noxious heat, tissue acidosis and chemical stimuli which are all known to cause pain. Studies on TRPV1-deficient mice suggest that TRPV1 is essential for acid sensing by nociceptors and for thermal hyperalgesia in inflammation of the skin, but not for transducing noxious heat. After TRPV1, other TRPV channels were cloned with polymodal properties and sensitivity to noxious heat, named TRPV2, TRPV3 and TRPV4. While TRPV3 and TRPV4 are predominantly warm sensors, TRPV2's threshold is in the noxious range (>52 degrees C). However, mice deficient of TRPV2 and TRPV1 or TRPV3 or TRPV4 show no major impairment of noxious heat sensing. Ruthenium red, a water soluble polycationic dye, was found to block the pore of the capsaicin-operated cation channel TRPV1 thus interfering with all polymodal ways of TRPV1 activation. Antagonistic effects of the dye were subsequently described on many other TRP-channels, especially on the heat-sensitive ones of the vanilloid family, TRPV2, TRPV3 and TRPV4. In this study, we used the rat skin-nerve preparation to define the possible actions of ruthenium red on the proton, capsaicin and noxious heat activation of native polymodal nociceptors. Ruthenium red was found to suppress only the capsaicin-induced excitation and desensitization of these nerve endings. On the contrary, the proton and heat-induced discharge responses of the single fibres were not influenced. Additionally, we found that the dye concentration dependently increases the excitability of the neurons resulting in ongoing activity and burstlike discharge. These differential results are discussed in the light of recent findings from transgenic mouse models, and they point once more to major (pharmacological) differences between cellular models of nociception, including spinal ganglion neuron and transfected cell lines, and the real native nerve endings.

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