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Subunit-specific P2X-receptor expression defines chemosensory properties of trigeminal neurons


: Dr Christian H. Wetzel, as above.


The facial innervation pattern of trigeminal nerve fibres comprises the innervation of the nasal epithelium, where free trigeminal nerve endings contribute to detection and discrimination of chemical stimuli including odourants. The signal transduction mechanisms in sensory nerve endings underlying perception of chemical stimuli remain widely uncovered. Here, we characterized trigeminal ATP-activated P2X receptors in cultured rat trigeminal neurons and investigated their role in chemoperception. We identified a new subpopulation of neurons lacking typical nociceptive characteristics and expressing homomeric P2X2 receptors. Using a certain group of chemicals known as trigeminal stimuli we found no direct activation of trigeminal neurons, but a modulation of P2X2 receptor mediated currents. In contrast, P2X3 receptor mediated currents of nociceptive trigeminal neurons remained unaffected by the tested chemicals. Therefore, we assume a functional role for the newly identified subpopulation in chemodetection of certain trigeminal stimuli.