The sensation of cooling is essential for survival. Extreme cold is a noxious stimulus that drives protective behaviour and that we thus perceive as pain. However, chronic pain patients suffering from cold allodynia paradoxically experience innocuous cooling as excruciating pain. Peripheral sensory neurons that detect decreasing temperature express numerous cold-sensitive and voltage-gated ion channels that govern their response to cooling in health and disease. In this review, we discuss how these ion channels control the sense of cooling and cold pain under physiological conditions, before focusing on the molecular mechanisms by which ion channels can trigger pathological cold pain. With the ever-rising number of patients burdened by chronic pain, we end by highlighting the pressing need to define the cells and molecules involved in cold allodynia and so identify new, rational drug targets for the analgesic treatment of cold pain.
MacDonald, D. I., Wood, J. N., & Emery, E. C. (2020, January 1). Molecular mechanisms of cold pain. Neurobiology of Pain. Elsevier B.V. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ynpai.2020.100044