Physiological and behavioral evidence of a capsaicin-sensitive TRPV-like channel in the medicinal leech

Torrie Summers, Sara Holec, Brian D. Burrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) channels are found throughout the animal kingdom, where they play an important role in sensory transduction. In this study, we combined physiological studies with in vivo behavioral experiments to examine the presence of a putative TRPV-like receptor in the medicinal leech, building upon earlier studies in this lophotrochozoan invertebrate. The leech polymodal nociceptive neuron was activated by both peripheral and central application of the TRPV1-activator capsaicin in a concentration-dependent manner, with 100 μmol l-1 being the lowest effective concentration. Responses to capsaicin were inhibited by the selective TRPV1 antagonist SB366791. The polymodal nociceptive neuron also responded to noxious thermal stimuli (>40°C), and this response was also blocked by SB366791. Capsaicin sensitivity was selective to the polymodal nociceptor with no direct response being elicited in the mechanical nociceptive neuron or in the nonnociceptive touch- or pressure-sensitive neurons. Capsaicin also elicited nocifensive behavioral responses (withdrawals and locomotion) in a concentration-dependent manner, and these behavioral responses were significantly attenuated with SB366791. These results suggest the presence of a capsaicin-sensitive TRPVlike channel in the medicinal leech central nervous system and are relevant to the evolution of nociceptive signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4167-4173
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Invertebrate
  • Leech
  • Nociception
  • TRPV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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