Machine-learned analysis of the association of next-generation sequencing-based human TRPV1 and TRPA1 genotypes with the sensitivity to heat stimuli and topically applied capsaicin

Pain. 2018 Jul;159(7):1366-1381. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001222.


Heat pain and its modulation by capsaicin varies among subjects in experimental and clinical settings. A plausible cause is a genetic component, of which TRPV1 ion channels, by their response to both heat and capsaicin, are primary candidates. However, TRPA1 channels can heterodimerize with TRPV1 channels and carry genetic variants reported to modulate heat pain sensitivity. To address the role of these candidate genes in capsaicin-induced hypersensitization to heat, pain thresholds acquired before and after topical application of capsaicin and TRPA1/TRPV1 exomic sequences derived by next-generation sequencing were assessed in n = 75 healthy volunteers and the genetic information comprised 278 loci. Gaussian mixture modeling indicated 2 phenotype groups with high or low capsaicin-induced hypersensitization to heat. Unsupervised machine learning implemented as swarm-based clustering hinted at differences in the genetic pattern between these phenotype groups. Several methods of supervised machine learning implemented as random forests, adaptive boosting, k-nearest neighbors, naive Bayes, support vector machines, and for comparison, binary logistic regression predicted the phenotype group association consistently better when based on the observed genotypes than when using a random permutation of the exomic sequences. Of note, TRPA1 variants were more important for correct phenotype group association than TRPV1 variants. This indicates a role of the TRPA1 and TRPV1 next-generation sequencing-based genetic pattern in the modulation of the individual response to heat-related pain phenotypes. When considering earlier evidence that topical capsaicin can induce neuropathy-like quantitative sensory testing patterns in healthy subjects, implications for future analgesic treatments with transient receptor potential inhibitors arise.

MeSH terms

  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genotype
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning*
  • Pain / genetics*
  • Pain Threshold / drug effects
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • TRPA1 Cation Channel / genetics*
  • TRPV Cation Channels / genetics*


  • TRPA1 Cation Channel
  • TRPA1 protein, human
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 protein, human
  • Capsaicin