Nociceptors with peripheral and central projections express temperature sensitive transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels, also called thermoTRPs. Chemosensitivity of thermoTRPs to certain natural compounds eliciting pain or exhibiting thermal properties has proven to be a good tool in characterizing these receptors. Capsaicin, a pungent chemical in hot peppers, has assisted in the cloning of the first thermoTRP, TRPV1. This discovery initiated the search for other receptors encoding the response to a wide range of temperatures encountered by the body. Of these, TRPV1 and TRPV2 encode unique modalities of thermal pain when exposed to noxious heat. The ability of TRPA1 to encode noxious cold is presently being debated. The role of TRPV1 in peripheral inflammatory pain and central sensitization during chronic pain is well known. In addition to endogenous agonists, a wide variety of chemical agonists and antagonists have been discovered to activate and inhibit TRPV1. Efforts are underway to determine conditions under which agonistmediated desensitization of TRPV1 or inhibition by antagonists can produce analgesia. Also, identification of specific second messenger molecules that regulate phosphorylation of TRPV1 has been the focus of intense research, to exploit a broader approach to pain treatment. The search for a role of TRPV2 in pain remains dormant due to the lack of suitable experimental models. However, progress into TRPA1s role in pain has received much attention recently. Another thermoTRP, TRPM8, encoding for the cool sensation and also expressed in nociceptors, has recently been shown to reduce pain via a central mechanism, thus opening a novel strategy for achieving analgesia. The role of other thermoTRPs (TRPV3 and TRPV4) encoding for detection of warm temperatures and expressed in nociceptors cannot be excluded. This review will discuss current knowledge on the role of nociceptor thermoTRPs in pain and therapy and describes the activator and inhibitor molecules known to interact with them and modulate their activity.
Keywords: Transient receptor potential (TRP), ThermoTRP, TRPV, TRPM, TRPA, nociceptor, pain, phosphorylation, analgesia
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