FIGURE 2. Polymodal nociceptors use a greater diversity of signal-transduction mechanisms to detect physiological stimuli than do primary sensory neurons in other systems.

From the following article:

Molecular mechanisms of nociception

David Julius and Allan I. Basbaum

Nature 413, 203-210(13 September 2001)



a, In mammals, light or odorants are detected by a convergent signalling pathway in which G-protein-coupled receptors modulate the production of cyclic nucleotide second messengers, which then alter sensory neuron excitability by regulating the activity of a single type of cation channel. b, In contrast, nociceptors use different signal-transduction mechanisms to detect physical and chemical stimuli. Recent studies suggest that TRP-channel family members (VR1 and VRL-1) detect noxious heat, and that ENaC/DEG-channel family detect mechanical stimuli. Molecular transducers for noxious cold remain enigmatic. Noxious chemicals, such as capsaicin or acid (that is, extracellular protons) may be detected through a common transducer (VR1), illustrating aspects of redundancy in nociception. At the same time, a single type of stimulus can interact with multiple detectors, as shown by the ability of extracellular protons to activate not only VR1, but also ASICs, which are also members of the ENaC/DEG-channel family.