Physiological temperatures drive glutamate release onto trigeminal superficial dorsal horn neurons

Tally M. Largent-Milnes, Deborah M. Hegarty, Sue A. Aicher, Michael C. Andresen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Trigeminal sensory afferent fibers terminating in nucleus caudalis (Vc) relay sensory information from craniofacial regions to the brain and are known to express transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels. TRP channels are activated by H+, thermal, and chemical stimuli. The present study investigated the relationships among the spontaneous release of glutamate, temperature, and TRPV1 localization at synapses in the Vc. Spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) were recorded from Vc neurons (n = 151) in horizontal brain-stem slices obtained from Sprague-Dawley rats. Neurons had basal sEPSC rates that fell into two distinct frequency categories: High (≥10 Hz) or Low (<10 Hz) at 35°C. Of all recorded neurons, those with High basal release rates (67%) at near-physiological temperatures greatly reduced their sEPSC rate when cooled to 30°C without amplitude changes. Such responses persisted during blockade of action potentials indicating that the High rate of glutamate release arises from presynaptic thermal mechanisms. Neurons with Low basal frequencies (33%) showed minor thermal changes in sEPSC rate that were abolished after addition of TTX, suggesting these responses were indirect and required local circuits. Activation of TRPV1 with capsaicin (100 nM) increased miniature EPSC (mEPSC) frequency in 70% of neurons, but half of these neurons had Low basal mEPSC rates and no temperature sensitivity. Our evidence indicates that normal temperatures (35-37°C) drive spontaneous excitatory synaptic activity within superficial Vc by a mechanism independent of presynaptic action potentials. Thus thermally sensitive inputs on superficial Vc neurons may tonically activate these neurons without afferent stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2222-2231
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrophysiology
  • Spontaneous release
  • TRPV1
  • Temperature
  • Trigeminal nucleus caudalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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