Behavioral and electrophysiological study of thermal and mechanical pain modulation by TRP channel agonists

M. G. Tsagareli, I. R. Nozadze, G. P. Gurtskaia, M. I. Carstens, N. J. Tsiklauri, Earl Carstens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Transient receptor potential channels (TRP) have been extensively investigated over the past few years. Recent findings in the field of pain have established a family of six thermoTRP channels (TRPA1, TRPM8, TRPV1, TRPV2, TRPV3, and TRPV4) that exhibits sensitivity to increases or decreases in temperature, as well as to chemical substances eliciting the respective hot or cold sensations. Such irritants include menthol, cinnamaldehyde, gingerol, mustard oil, capsaicin, camphor, eugenol, and others. In this study, we used behavioral and electrophysiological methods to investigate if mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate, AITC) and capsaicin affect the sensitivity to thermal, innocuous cold, and mechanical stimuli in male rats. Unilateral intraplantar injections of AITC and capsaicin induced significant decreases in the latency for ipsilateral paw withdrawal from a noxious heat stimulus, i.e., heat hyperalgesia. These agents also significantly reduced the mechanical withdrawal thresholds of the injected paw, i.e., mechanical allodynia. Bilateral intraplantar injections of AITC resulted in a twophase effect on cold avoidance (thermal preference test). A low concentration of AITC (5%) did not change cold avoidance similarly to the vehicle control, while higher AITC concentrations (10 and 15%) significantly reduced cold avoidance, i.e., induced cold hypoalgesia. Capsaicin acted in almost the same manner. These results indicate that TRPA1 channels are clearly involved in pain reactions, and the TRPA1 agonist AITC enhances the heat pain sensitivity, possibly by indirectly modulating TRPV1 channels co-expressed in nociceptors with TRPA1s. In electrophysiological experiments, neuronal responses to electrical and graded mechanical and noxious thermal stimulations were tested before and after cutaneous application of AITC. Repetitive application of AITC initially increased the firing rate of spinal wide-dynamic range neurons; this was followed by rapid desensitization that persisted when AITC application was reapplied 30 min later. The responses to noxious thermal (but not to mechanical) stimuli were significantly enhanced irrespective of whether the neuron was directly activated by AITC. These findings indicate that AITC produced peripheral sensitization of heat nociceptors. Overall, our data support the role of hermosensitive TRPA1 and TRPV1 channels in pain modulation and show that these thermoTRP channels are promising targets for the development of a new group of analgesic drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013


  • capsaicin
  • heat pain
  • hyperalgesia
  • mechanical allodynia
  • mustard oil
  • nociception
  • thermal preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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