Thermosensation and pain

J Neurobiol. 2004 Oct;61(1):3-12. doi: 10.1002/neu.20079.


We feel a wide range of temperatures spanning from cold to heat. Within this range, temperatures over about 43 degrees C and below about 15 degrees C evoke not only a thermal sensation, but also a feeling of pain. In mammals, six thermosensitive ion channels have been reported, all of which belong to the TRP (transient receptor potential) superfamily. These include TRPV1 (VR1), TRPV2 (VRL-1), TRPV3, TRPV4, TRPM8 (CMR1), and TRPA1 (ANKTM1). These channels exhibit distinct thermal activation thresholds (>43 degrees C for TRPV1, >52 degrees C for TRPV2, > approximately 34-38 degrees C for TRPV3, > approximately 27-35 degrees C for TRPV4, < approximately 25-28 degrees C for TRPM8 and <17 degrees C for TRPA1), and are expressed in primary sensory neurons as well as other tissues. The involvement of TRPV1 in thermal nociception has been demonstrated by multiple methods, including the analysis of TRPV1-deficient mice. TRPV2, TRPM8, and TRPA1 are also very likely to be involved in thermal nociception, because their activation thresholds are within the noxious range of temperatures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Temperature*
  • Thermoreceptors / metabolism*