Inflammatory hypersensitivity is characterized by behavioural reductions in withdrawal thresholds to noxious stimuli. Although cutaneous primary afferent neurones are known to have lowered thermal thresholds in inflammation, whether their mechanical thresholds are altered remains controversial. The transient receptor potential channel A1 (TRPA1) is a receptor localized to putative nociceptive neurones and is implicated in mechanical and thermal nociception. Herein, we examined changes in the properties of single primary afferents in normal and acutely inflamed rats and determined whether specific nociceptive properties, particularly mechanical thresholds, are altered in the subpopulation of afferents that responded to the TRPA1 agonist cinnamaldehyde (TRPA1-positive afferents). TRPA1-positive afferents in normal animals belonged to the mechanonociceptive populations, many of which also responded to heat or capsaicin but only a few of which responded to cold. In acute inflammation, a greater proportion of afferents responded to cinnamaldehyde and an increased proportion of dorsal root ganglion neurones expressed TRPA1 protein. Functionally, in inflammation, TRPA1-positive afferents showed significantly reduced mechanical thresholds and enhanced activity to agonist stimulation. Inflammation altered thermal thresholds in both TRPA1-positive and TRPA1-negative afferents. Our data show that a subset of afferents is sensitized to mechanical stimulation by inflammation and that these afferents are defined by expression of TRPA1
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