TRPA1 is a calcium-permeable nonselective cation transient receptor potential (TRP) channel that functions as an excitatory ionotropic receptor in nociceptive neurons. TRPA1 is robustly activated by pungent substances in mustard oil, cinnamon, and garlic and mediates the inflammatory actions of environmental irritants and proalgesic agents. Here, we demonstrate a bimodal sensitivity of TRPA1 to menthol, a widely used cooling agent and known activator of the related cold receptor TRPM8. In whole-cell and single-channel recordings of heterologously expressed TRPA1, submicromolar to low-micromolar concentrations of menthol cause channel activation, whereas higher concentrations lead to a reversible channel block. In addition, we provide evidence for TRPA1-mediated menthol responses in mustard oil-sensitive trigeminal ganglion neurons. Our data indicate that TRPA1 is a highly sensitive menthol receptor that very likely contributes to the diverse psychophysical sensations after topical application of menthol to the skin or mucous membranes of the oral and nasal cavities.
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