Capsaicin (trans-8-methyl-N-vanilyl-6-nonenamide) is a unique alkaloid isolated from hot chili peppers of the capsicum family. Capsaicin is an agonist of transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1), which is expressed in nociceptive sensory neurons and a range of secretory epithelia, including salivary glands. Capsaicin has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties in sensory neurons. Recently, increasing evidence has indicated that capsaicin also affects saliva secretion and inflammation in salivary glands. Applying capsaicin increases salivary secretion in human and animal models. Capsaicin appears to increase salivation mainly by modulating the paracellular pathway in salivary glands. Capsaicin activates TRPV1, which modulates the permeability of tight junctions (TJ) by regulating the expression and function of putative intercellular adhesion molecules in an ERK (extracelluar signal-regulated kinase) -dependent manner. Capsaicin also improved dysfunction in transplanted salivary glands. Aside from the secretory effects of capsaicin, it has anti-inflammatory effects in salivary glands. The anti-inflammatory effect of capsaicin is, however, not mediated by TRPV1, but by inhibition of the NF-κB pathway. In conclusion, capsaicin might be a potential drug for alleviating dry mouth symptoms and inflammation of salivary glands.
Keywords: Capsaicin; NF-κB; Salivary glands; TRPV1.