Protons: small stimulants of capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves

Trends Neurosci. 1994 Dec;17(12):509-12. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(94)90149-x.


The data reviewed in this article suggest that protons should no longer be considered simply as an unwanted by-product of anaerobic respiration that results from either an accumulation of inflammatory cells or a reduced oxygenated blood supply during ischaemia. A fall in extracellular pH can stimulate a subpopulation of sensory nerves by activation of ion channels. The available evidence indicates that most, if not all, of the activated neurones are also stimulated by capsaicin, and that protons and capsaicin share a common mechanism of neuronal activation. A proton should be viewed as a mediator that elicits a protective response with reflex cardiovascular and respiratory responses, which modulate systemic blood flow, and with the local release of sensory neuropeptides, which vasodilates the microvasculature and stimulates extravasation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / physiology
  • Capsaicin / agonists
  • Capsaicin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Neurokinin A / metabolism
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Protons*
  • Rats
  • Ruthenium Red / pharmacology*
  • Substance P / metabolism


  • Protons
  • Ruthenium Red
  • Substance P
  • Neurokinin A
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Capsaicin