Nucleotide signaling and cutaneous mechanisms of pain transduction

Brain Res Rev. 2009 Apr;60(1):24-35. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2008.12.013. Epub 2008 Dec 31.


Sensory neurons that innervate the skin provide critical information about physical contact between the organism and the environment, including information about potentially-damaging stimuli that give rise to the sensation of pain. These afferents also contribute to the maintenance of tissue homeostasis, inflammation and wound healing, while sensitization of sensory afferents after injury results in painful hypersensitivity and protective behavior. In contrast to the traditional view of primary afferent terminals as the sole site of sensory transduction, recent reports have lead to the intriguing idea that cells of the skin play an active role in the transduction of sensory stimuli. The search for molecules that transduce different types of sensory stimuli (mechanical, heat, chemical) at the axon terminal has yielded a wide range of potential effectors, many of which are expressed by keratinocytes as well as neurons. Emerging evidence underscores the importance of nucleotide signaling through P2X ionotropic and P2Y metabotropic receptors in pain processing, and implicates nucleotide signaling as a critical form of communication between cells of the skin, immune cells and sensory neurons. It is of great interest to determine whether pathological changes in these mechanisms contribute to chronic pain in human disease states such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). This review discusses recent advances in our understanding of communication mechanisms between cells of the skin and sensory axons in the transduction of sensory input leading to pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nociceptors / metabolism*
  • Nucleotides / metabolism*
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Skin / physiopathology
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*


  • Nucleotides
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • Adenosine Triphosphate