Pain signals are relayed to the brain via a nociceptive system, and in rare cases, this nociceptive system contains genetic variants that can limit the pain response. Here, we questioned whether a human transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) missense variant causes a resistance to noxious stimuli and, further, whether we could target this region with a cell-permeable peptide as a pain therapeutic. Initially using a computational approach, we identified a human K710N TRPV1 missense variant in an otherwise highly conserved region of mammalian TRPV1. After generating a TRPV1K710N-knockin mouse using CRISPR/Cas9, we discovered that the K710N variant reduced capsaicin-induced calcium influx in dorsal root ganglion neurons. The TRPV1K710N rodents also had less acute behavioral responses to noxious chemical stimuli and less hypersensitivity to nerve injury, while their response to noxious heat remained intact. Furthermore, blocking this K710 region in WT rodents using a cell-penetrating peptide limited acute behavioral responses to noxious stimuli and returned pain hypersensitivity induced by nerve injury to baseline levels. These findings identify K710 TRPV1 as a discrete site that is crucial for the control of nociception and provide insights into how to leverage rare genetic variants in humans to uncover fresh strategies for developing pain therapeutics.
Shufang He, Vanessa O. Zambelli, Pritam Sinharoy, Laura Brabenec, Yang Bian, Freeborn Rwere, Rafaela C.R. Hell, Beatriz Stein Neto, Barbara Hung, Xuan Yu, Meng Zhao, Zhaofei Luo, Chao Wu, Lijun Xu, Katrin J. Svensson, Stacy L. McAllister, Creed M. Stary, Nana-Maria Wagner, Ye Zhang, Eric R. Gross