Editors' ChoiceReceptors

Can Take the Heat

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Science's STKE  18 Apr 2000:
Vol. 2000, Issue 28, pp. tw9
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2000.28.tw9

The "heat" in hot peppers or from an acid burn turns out to be due to the triggering of one of the same receptors that contributes to the sensation of painful heat. Caterina et al. have constructed transgenic mice that are lacking the VR1 receptor, a cation channel selectively found in neural ganglia that mediate pain, which opens when activated by capsaicin or protons. These mice can eat chili peppers without painful consequences. The ability of these mice to sense noxious heat is impaired, but not completely eliminated, which suggests that other systems also contribute to heat detection. The VR1 receptor likely integrates stimuli released from tissue damage (such as protons) with the sensation of painful heat to send a rapid danger signal to the brain to remove the animal from the stimulus.

Caterina, M.J., Leffler, A., Malmberg, A.B., Martin, W.J., Trafton, J., Petersen-Zeitz, K.R., Koltzenburg, M., Basbaum, A.I., and Julius, D. (2000) Impaired nociception and pain sensation in mice lacking the capsaicin receptor. Science 288: 306 -313. [Abstract] [Full Text]

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