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Characterization of sensory neurons expressing TRPV1 and Cav3.2 using whole-cell recording and optogenetic methods


Though critical for life, the sensation of pain is also a debilitating symptom of many disorders. While understanding its transduction may provide valuable insight into the treatment of chronic pain, studying this neural circuitry has previously proven incredibly challenging due to the extensive intermingling of sensory neurons conveying heat, cold, mechanical and chemical sensations. Optogenetics now provides a novel means of using light to selectively activate genetically distinct subpopulations of neurons and determine their contributions to the transmission of noxious signals. We are particularly interested in characterizing the TRPV1- and Cav3.2-expressing subsets of neurons from the dorsal root ganglia. TRPV1 is a non-selective cation channel activated by intense heat and the chemical irritant capsaicin, whereas Cav3.2 is a low-threshold voltage-gated calcium channel expressed in low-threshold mechanoreceptors. We hypothesize that these channels are expressed in non-overlapping populations of neurons in the dorsal root ganglia and contribute in unique ways to the development and maintenance of chronic pain states.\nTo test this hypothesis, we conducted image analysis of mice dorsal root ganglia sections to determine the expression patterns of TRPV1- and Cav3.2- expressing neurons. In addition, we performed whole-cell recordings on TRPV1/ChR2-EYFP and Cav3.2/ChR2-EYFP neurons isolated from the dorsal root ganglia of novel mouse models to test for: light responsiveness, confirming the presence of ChR2-EYFP; T-type current, an indicator of Cav3.2 channels; and capsaicin responsiveness, a marker of TRPV1 channels. We found that Cav3.2/ChR2-EYFP and TRPV1/ChR2-EYFP channels are expressed in different, yet overlapping subsets of neurons in the dorsal root ganglia.


Kuksenko, Olena, and Van Hentenryck, Maite, "Characterization of sensory neurons expressing TRPV1 and Cav3.2 using whole-cell recording and optogenetic methods" (2015). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • Summer Research Symposium

    Each year, Brown University showcases the research of its undergraduates at the Summer Research Symposium. More than half of the student-researchers are UTRA recipients, while others receive funding from a variety of Brown-administered and national programs and fellowships and go …