Effect of capsaicin on thermoregulation: an update with new aspects

Research output: Review article

28 Citations (Scopus)


Capsaicin, a selective activator of the chemo- and heat-sensitive transient receptor potential (TRP) V1 cation channel, has characteristic feature of causing long-term functional and structural impairment of neural elements supplied by TRPV1/capsaicin receptor. In mammals, systemic application of capsaicin induces complex heat-loss response characteristic for each species and avoidance of warm environment. Capsaicin activates cutaneous warm receptors and polymodal nociceptors but has no effect on cold receptors or mechanoreceptors. In this review, thermoregulatory features of capsaicin-pretreated rodents and TRPV1-mediated neural elements with innocuous heat sensitivity are summarized. Recent data support a novel hypothesis for the role of visceral warmth sensors in monitoring core body temperature. Furthermore, strong evidence suggests that central presynaptic nerve terminals of TRPV1-expressing cutaneous, thoracic and abdominal visceral receptors are activated by innocuous warmth stimuli and capsaicin. These responses are absent in TRPV1 knockout mice. Thermoregulatory disturbance induced by systemic capsaicin pretreatment lasts for months and is characterized by a normal body temperature at cool environment up to a total dose of 150 mg/kg s.c. Upward differential shift of set points for activation vasodilation, other heat-loss effectors and thermopreference develops. Avoidance of warm ambient temperature (35°C, 40°C) is severely impaired but thermopreference at cool ambient temperatures (Tas) are not altered. TRPV1 knockout or knockdown and genetically altered TRPV1, TRPV2 and TRPM8 knockout mice have normal core temperature in thermoneutral or cool environments, but the combined mutant mice have impaired regulation in warm or cold (4°C) environments. Several lines of evidence support that in the preoptic area warmth sensitive neurons are activated and desensitized by capsaicin, but morphological evidence for it is controversial. It is suggested that these neurons have also integrator function. Fever is enhanced in capsaicin-desensitized rats and the inhibition observed after pretreatment with low i.p. doses does not support in the light of their warmth sensitivity the concept that abdominal TRPV1-expressing nerve terminals serve as nonthermal chemosensors for reference signals in thermoregulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-296
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - jún. 30 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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