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Protease activated receptors 1 and 4 sensitize TRPV1 in nociceptive neurones

Vittorio Vellani12, Anna M Kinsey1, Massimiliano Prandini2, Sabine C Hechtfischer3, Peter Reeh3, Pier C Magherini2, Chiara Giacomoni4 and Peter A McNaughton1*

  • * Corresponding author: Peter A McNaughton

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1PD, UK

2 Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, via Campi 287, Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, I-41100 Modena Italy

3 Department of Physiology and Experimental Pathophysiology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Universitätsstrasse 17, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany

4 Università degli Studi della Repubblica di San Marino, Dipartimento di Economia e Tecnologia, Strada della Bandirola, 44, 47898 Montegiardino - Repubblica di San Marino - RSM

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Molecular Pain 2010, 6:61  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-6-61

Published: 27 September 2010


Protease-activated receptors (PAR1-4) are activated by proteases released by cell damage or blood clotting, and are known to be involved in promoting pain and hyperalgesia. Previous studies have shown that PAR2 receptors enhance activation of TRPV1 but the role of other PARs is less clear. In this paper we investigate the expression and function of the PAR1, 3 and 4 thrombin-activated receptors in sensory neurones. Immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization show that PAR1 and PAR4 are expressed in 10 - 15% of neurons, distributed across all size classes. Thrombin or a specific PAR1 or PAR4 activating peptide (PAR1/4-AP) caused functional effects characteristic of activation of the PLCβ/PKC pathway: intracellular calcium release, sensitisation of TRPV1, and translocation of the epsilon isoform of PKC (PKCε) to the neuronal cell membrane. Sensitisation of TRPV1 was significantly reduced by PKC inhibitors. Neurons responding to thrombin or PAR1-AP were either small nociceptive neurones of the peptidergic subclass, or larger neurones which expressed markers for myelinated fibres. Sequential application of PAR1-AP and PAR4-AP showed that PAR4 is expressed in a subset of the PAR1-expressing neurons. Calcium responses to PAR2-AP were by contrast seen in a distinct population of small IB4+ nociceptive neurones. PAR3 appears to be non-functional in sensory neurones. In a skin-nerve preparation the release of the neuropeptide CGRP by heat was potentiated by PAR1-AP. Culture with nerve growth factor (NGF) increased the proportion of thrombin-responsive neurons in the IB4- population, while glial-derived neurotropic factor (GDNF) and neurturin upregulated the proportion of thrombin-responsive neurons in the IB4+ population. We conclude that PAR1 and PAR4 are functionally expressed in large myelinated fibre neurons, and are also expressed in small nociceptors of the peptidergic subclass, where they are able to potentiate TRPV1 activity.