Key points: The cold- and menthol-activated transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) channels are thought to be regulated by phospholipase C (PLC), but neither the specific PLC isoform nor the in vivo relevance of this regulation has been established. Here we identify PLCδ4 as the key PLC isoform involved in regulation of TRPM8 channels in vivo. We show that in small PLCδ4−/− TRPM8-positive dorsal root ganglion neurons cold, menthol and WS-12, a selective TRPM8 agonist, evoked significantly larger currents than in wild-type neurons, and action potential frequencies induced by menthol or by current injections were also higher in PLCδ4−/− neurons. PLCδ4−/− mice showed increased behavioural responses to evaporative cooling, and this effect was inhibited by a TRPM8 antagonist; behavioural responses to heat and mechanical stimuli were not altered. We provide evidence for the involvement of a specific PLC isoform in the regulation of cold sensitivity in mice by regulating TRPM8 activity. Abstract: The transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) ion channel is a major sensor of environmental low temperatures. Ca2+-induced activation of phospholipase C (PLC) has been implied in the regulation of TRPM8 channels during menthol- and cold-induced desensitization in vitro. Here we identify PLCδ4 as the key PLC isoform involved in regulation of TRPM8 in sensory dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. We identified two TRPM8-positive neuronal subpopulations, based on their cell body size. Most TRPM8-positive small neurons also responded to capsaicin, and had significantly larger menthol-induced inward current densities than medium–large cells, most of which did not respond to capsaicin. Small, but not medium–large, PLCδ4−/− neurons showed significantly larger currents induced by cold, menthol or WS-12, a specific TRPM8 agonist, compared to wild-type (WT) neurons, but TRPM8 protein levels were not different between the two groups. In current-clamp experiments small neurons had more depolarized resting membrane potentials, and required smaller current injections to generate action potentials (APs) than medium–large cells. In small PLCδ4−/− neurons, menthol application induced larger depolarizations and generation of APs with frequencies significantly higher compared to WT neurons. In behavioural experiments PLCδ4−/− mice showed greater sensitivity to evaporative cooling by acetone than control animals. Pretreatment with the TRPM8 antagonist PBMC reduced cold-induced responses, and the effect was more pronounced in the PLCδ4−/− group. Heat and mechanical sensitivity of the PLCδ4−/− mice was not different from WT animals. Our data support the involvement of PLCδ4 in the regulation of TRPM8 channel activity in vivo.
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