Human odontoblasts express functional thermo-sensitive TRP channels: Implications for dentin sensitivity

  • El Karim Ikhlas
  • Linden Gerard J
  • Curtis Timothy M
  • About Imad
  • Mcgahon Mary K
  • Irwin Chris R
  • Lundy Fionnuala T


Odontoblasts form the outermost cellular layer of the dental pulp where they have been proposed to act as sensory receptor cells. Despite this suggestion, evidence supporting their direct role in mediating thermo-sensation and nociception is lacking. Transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels directly mediate nociceptive functions, but their functional expression in human odontoblasts has yet to be elucidated. In the present study, we have examined the molecular and functional expression of thermo-sensitive TRP channels in cultured odontoblast-like cells and in native human odontoblasts obtained from healthy wisdom teeth. PCR and western blotting confirmed gene and protein expression of TRPV1, TRPA1 and TRPM8 channels. Immunohistochemistry revealed that these channels were localised to odontoblastlike cells as determined by double staining with dentin sialoprotein (DSP) antibody. In functional assays, agonists of TRPV1, TRPA1 and TRPM8 channels elicited [Ca 2+ ] i transients that could be blocked by relevant antagonists. Application of hot and cold stimuli to the cells also evoked rises in [Ca 2+ ] i which could be blocked by TRP-channel antagonists. Using a gene silencing approached we further confirmed a role for TRPA1 in mediating noxious cold responses in odontoblasts. We conclude that human odontoblasts express functional TRP channels that may play a crucial role in mediating thermal sensation in teeth.