The identification and cloning of the vanilloid receptor 1 (TRPV1) represented a significant step for the understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the transduction of noxious chemical and thermal stimuli by peripheral nociceptors. TRPV1 is a non-selective cation channel gated by noxious heat, vanilloids and extracellular protons. TRPV1 channel activity is remarkably potentiated by pro-inflammatory agents, a phenomenon that is thought to underlie the peripheral sensitisation of nociceptors that leads to thermal hyperalgesia. Cumulative evidence is building a strong case for the involvement of this receptor in the etiology of both peripheral and visceral inflammatory pain, such as inflammatory bowel disease, bladder inflammation and cancer pain. The validation of TRPV1 receptor as a key therapeutic target for pain management has thrust intensive drug discovery programs aimed at developing orally active antagonists of the receptor protein. Nonetheless, the real challenge of these drug discovery platforms is to develop antagonists that preserve the physiological activity of TRPV1 receptors while correcting over-active channels. This is a condition to ensure normal pro-prioceptive and nociceptive responses that represent a safety mechanism to prevent tissue injury. Recent and exciting advances in the function, dysfunction and modulation of this receptor will be the focus of this review.
Keywords: Transient Receptor Potential (TRP), single nucleotide polymorphisms, In situ hybridisation, inflammatory pain, Capsazepine, trafficking