TRPA1 expression levels and excitability brake by KV channels influence cold sensitivity of TRPA1-expressing neurons

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Publication date: 14 June 2017
Source:Neuroscience, Volume 353
Author(s): Tosifa Memon, Kevin Chase, Lee S. Leavitt, Baldomero M. Olivera, Russell W. Teichert
The molecular sensor of innocuous (painless) cold sensation is well-established to be transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily M, member 8 (TRPM8). However, the role of transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily A, member 1 (TRPA1) in noxious (painful) cold sensation has been controversial. We find that TRPA1 channels contribute to the noxious cold sensitivity of mouse somatosensory neurons, independent of TRPM8 channels, and that TRPA1-expressing neurons are largely non-overlapping with TRPM8-expressing neurons in mouse dorsal-root ganglia (DRG). However, relatively few TRPA1-expressing neurons (e.g., responsive to allyl isothiocyanate or AITC, a selective TRPA1 agonist) respond overtly to cold temperature in vitro, unlike TRPM8-expressing neurons, which almost all respond to cold. Using somatosensory neurons from TRPM8−/− mice and subtype-selective blockers of TRPM8 and TRPA1 channels, we demonstrate that responses to cold temperatures from TRPA1-expressing neurons are mediated by TRPA1 channels. We also identify two factors that affect the cold-sensitivity of TRPA1-expressing neurons: (1) cold-sensitive AITC-sensitive neurons express relatively more TRPA1 transcripts than cold-insensitive AITC-sensitive neurons and (2) voltage-gated potassium (KV) channels attenuate the cold-sensitivity of some TRPA1-expressing neurons. The combination of these two factors, combined with the relatively weak agonist-like activity of cold temperature on TRPA1 channels, partially explains why few TRPA1-expressing neurons respond to cold. Blocking KV channels also reveals another subclass of noxious cold-sensitive DRG neurons that do not express TRPM8 or TRPA1 channels. Altogether, the results of this study provide novel insights into the cold-sensitivity of different subclasses of somatosensory neurons.

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