Physiological, pharmacological and behavioral evidence for a TRPA1 channel that can elicit defensive responses in the medicinal leech

Torrie Summers, Yanqing Wang, Brandon Hanten, Brian D. Burrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Transient receptor potential ankyrin subtype 1 (TRPA1) channels are chemosensitive to compounds such as allyl isothiocyanate (AITC, the active component of mustard oil) and other reactive electrophiles and may also be thermodetectors in many animal phyla. In this study, we provide the first pharmacological evidence of a putative TRPA1-like channel in the medicinal leech. The leech's polymodal nociceptive neuron was activated by both peripheral and central application of the TRPA1 agonist AITC in a concentration-dependent manner. Responses to AITC were inhibited by the selective TRPA1 antagonist HC030031, but also by the TRPV1 antagonist SB366791. Other TRPA1 activators - N-methylmaleimide (NMM) and cinnamaldehyde (CIN) - also activated this nociceptive neuron, although HC030031 only inhibited the effects of NMM. The polymodal nociceptive neurons responded to moderately cold thermal stimuli (<17°C) and these responses were blocked by HC030031. AITC sensitivity was also found in the pressure-sensitive sensory neurons and was blocked by HC030031, but not by SB366791. AITC elicited a nocifensive withdrawal of the posterior sucker in a concentration-dependent manner that could be attenuated with HC030031. Peripheral application of AITC in vivo also produced swimming-like behavior that was attenuated by HC030031. These results suggest the presence of a TRPA1-like channel in the medicinal leech nervous system that responds to cold temperatures and may interact with the leech TRPV-like channel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3023-3031
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Invertebrate
  • Leech
  • Nociception
  • TRPA1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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