Most cold-sensitive subnucleus caudalis (Vc) neurons are also excited by the TRPM8 agonist menthol and the TRPA1 agonist cinnamaldehyde (CA). We investigated how interactions among menthol, CA and noxious cooling and heating of the tongue affected responses of superficial Vc units recorded in thiopental-anesthetized rats. Units responded to 1% CA which enhanced cold- and heat-evoked responses 5 min later. They responded more strongly to 10% CA which initially depressed cold responses, followed by enhancement at 5 min without affecting responses to heat. Following 10% CA, the mean response to 1% menthol was significantly lower than when menthol was tested first. After menthol, the subsequent response to CA was significantly weaker compared to the mean CA-evoked response when it was tested first. These results demonstrate mutual cross-desensitization between CA and menthol. The response to CA was enhanced following prior application of 10% ethanol (menthol vehicle). Prior application of menthol did not prevent the biphasic effect of 10% CA on cold-evoked responses, nor did prior application of CA prevent menthol enhancement of cold-evoked responses. Responses to noxious heat were unaffected by 10% CA and menthol regardless of the order of chemical presentation. These data indicate that superficial Vc neurons receive convergent input from primary afferents expressing TRPM8 and TRPA1. The mutual cross-desensitization between CA and menthol, and differential modulation of cold- vs. heat-evoked responses, suggests a direct inhibition of TRPM8 and TRPA1 expressed in peripheral nerve endings by CA and menthol, respectively, rather than a central site of interaction.
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