Ion channels of nociception

Annu Rev Physiol. 1999:61:835-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.61.1.835.


Nociceptors are the first cells in the series of neurons that lead to the sensation of pain. The essential functions of nociceptors--transducing noxious stimuli into depolarizations that trigger action potentials, conducting the action potentials from the peripheral sensory site to the synapse in the central nervous system, and converting the action potentials into neurotransmitter release at the presynaptic terminal--all depend on ion channels. This review discusses recent results in the converging fields of nociception and ion channel biology. It focuses on (a) the capsaicin receptor and its possible role in thermosensation, (b) ATP-gated channels, (c) proton-gated channels, and (d) nociceptor-specific Na+ channels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / physiology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology
  • Sodium Channels / physiology
  • Thermosensing / physiology


  • Acids
  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Sodium Channels
  • Adenosine Triphosphate