The vanilloid receptor: A molecular gateway to the pain pathway

M. J. Caterina, D. Julius

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

The detection of painful stimuli occurs primarily at the peripheral terminals of specialized sensory neurons called nociceptors. These small-diameter neurons transduce signals of a chemical, mechanical, or thermal nature into action potentials and transmit this information to the central nervous system, ultimately eliciting a perception of pain or discomfort. Little is known about the proteins that detect noxious stimuli, especially those of a physical nature. Here we review recent advances in the molecular characterization of the capsaicin (vanilloid) receptor, an excitatory ion channel expressed by nociceptors, which contributes to the detection and integration of pain-producing chemical and thermal stimuli. The analysis of vanilloid receptor gene knockout mice confirms the involvement of this channel in pain sensation, as well as in hypersensitivity to noxious stimuli following tissue injury. At the same time, these studies demonstrate the existence of redundant mechanisms for the sensation of heat-evoked pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-517
Number of pages31
JournalAnnual review of neuroscience
Volume24
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 11 2001

Keywords

  • Capsaicin
  • Heat sensation
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Ion channel
  • Nociceptor
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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