Anti-calmodulins and tricyclic adjuvants in pain therapy block the TRPV1 channel

PLoS One. 2007 Jun 20;2(6):e545. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000545.


Ca(2+)-loaded calmodulin normally inhibits multiple Ca(2+)-channels upon dangerous elevation of intracellular Ca(2+) and protects cells from Ca(2+)-cytotoxicity, so blocking of calmodulin should theoretically lead to uncontrolled elevation of intracellular Ca(2+). Paradoxically, classical anti-psychotic, anti-calmodulin drugs were noted here to inhibit Ca(2+)-uptake via the vanilloid inducible Ca(2+)-channel/inflamatory pain receptor 1 (TRPV1), which suggests that calmodulin inhibitors may block pore formation and Ca(2+) entry. Functional assays on TRPV1 expressing cells support direct, dose-dependent inhibition of vanilloid-induced (45)Ca(2+)-uptake at microM concentrations: calmidazolium (broad range) > or = trifluoperazine (narrow range) chlorpromazine/amitriptyline>fluphenazine>>W-7 and W-13 (only partially). Most likely a short acidic domain at the pore loop of the channel orifice functions as binding site either for Ca(2+) or anti-calmodulin drugs. Camstatin, a selective peptide blocker of calmodulin, inhibits vanilloid-induced Ca(2+)-uptake in intact TRPV1(+) cells, and suggests an extracellular site of inhibition. TRPV1(+), inflammatory pain-conferring nociceptive neurons from sensory ganglia, were blocked by various anti-psychotic and anti-calmodulin drugs. Among them, calmidazolium, the most effective calmodulin agonist, blocked Ca(2+)-entry by a non-competitive kinetics, affecting the TRPV1 at a different site than the vanilloid binding pocket. Data suggest that various calmodulin antagonists dock to an extracellular site, not found in other Ca(2+)-channels. Calmodulin antagonist-evoked inhibition of TRPV1 and NMDA receptors/Ca(2+)-channels was validated by microiontophoresis of calmidazolium to laminectomised rat monitored with extracellular single unit recordings in vivo. These unexpected findings may explain empirically noted efficacy of clinical pain adjuvant therapy that justify efforts to develop hits into painkillers, selective to sensory Ca(2+)-channels but not affecting motoneurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / pharmacology*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calmodulin / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Chlorpromazine / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects*
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sensory System Agents / pharmacology
  • TRPV Cation Channels / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Calmodulin
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Imidazoles
  • Sensory System Agents
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • calmidazolium
  • Capsaicin
  • Calcium
  • Chlorpromazine