Capsaicin, the main pungent ingredient in ‘hot’ chilli peppers, elicits a sensation of burning pain by selectively activating sensory neurons that convey information about noxious stimuli to the central nervous system. We have used an expression cloning strategy based on calcium influx to isolate a functional cDNA encoding a capsaicin receptor from sensory neurons. This receptor is a non-selective cation channel that is structurally related to members of the TRP family of ion channels. The cloned capsaicin receptor is also activated by increases in temperature in the noxious range, suggesting that it functions as a transducer of painful thermal stimuli in vivo.
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We thank H. Kong, M. Chao and A. Brake for the dorsal root ganglian cDNA and plasmid DNA used in library construction; T. Livelli for HEK293 cells and advice regarding transfection; J.Trafton for guidance with calcium imaging proceudres; N. Guy for tissue sections; J. Poblete for technical assistance; A. Basbaum and M. Dallman for comments on the manuscript; and A. Brake and H.Ingraham for advice and encouragement. M.J.C. is a recipient of an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship and a NARSAD young investigator award. This work was supported by grants from the NIH.
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Caterina, M., Schumacher, M., Tominaga, M. et al. The capsaicin receptor: a heat-activated ion channel in the pain pathway. Nature 389, 816–824 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1038/39807
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