Xu, TL (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Neurosci, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,email@example.com
Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), which are members of the sodium-selective cation channels belonging to the epithelial sodium channel/degenerin (ENaC/DEG) family, act as membrane-bound receptors for extracellular protons as well as nonproton ligands. At least five ASIC subunits have been identified in mammalian neurons, which form both homotrimeric and heterotrimeric channels. The highly proton sensitive ASIC3 channels are predominantly distributed in peripheral sensory neurons, correlating with their roles in multimodal sensory perception, including nociception, mechanosensation, and chemosensation. Different from other ASIC subunit composing ion channels, ASIC3 channels can mediate a sustained window current in response to mild extracellular acidosis (pH 7.3-6.7), which often occurs accompanied by many sensory stimuli. Furthermore, recent evidence indicates that the sustained component of ASIC3 currents can be enhanced by nonproton ligands including the endogenous metabolite agmatine. In this review, we first summarize the growing body of evidence for the involvement of ASIC3 channels in multimodal sensory perception and then discuss the potential mechanisms underlying ASIC3 activation and mediation of sensory perception, with a special emphasis on its role in nociception. We conclude that ASIC3 activation and modulation by diverse sensory stimuli represent a new avenue for understanding the role of ASIC3 channels in sensory perception. Furthermore, the emerging implications of ASIC3 channels in multiple sensory dysfunctions including nociception allow the development of new pharmacotherapy.