STIM1 and ORAI1 form a novel cold transduction mechanism in sensory and sympathetic neurons

Tamara J. Buijs, Bruno Vilar, Chun Hsiang Tan, Peter A. McNaughton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Moderate coolness is sensed by TRPM8 ion channels in peripheral sensory nerves, but the mechanism by which noxious cold is detected remains elusive. Here, we show that somatosensory and sympathetic neurons express two distinct mechanisms to detect noxious cold. In the first, inhibition by cold of a background outward current causes membrane depolarization that activates an inward current through voltage-dependent calcium (CaV) channels. A second cold-activated mechanism is independent of membrane voltage, is inhibited by blockers of ORAI ion channels and by downregulation of STIM1, and is recapitulated in HEK293 cells by co-expression of ORAI1 and STIM1. Using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy we found that cold causes STIM1 to aggregate with and activate ORAI1 ion channels, in a mechanism similar to that underlying store-operated calcium entry (SOCE), but directly activated by cold and not by emptying of calcium stores. This novel mechanism may explain the phenomenon of cold-induced vasodilation (CIVD), in which extreme cold increases blood flow in order to preserve the integrity of peripheral tissues.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEMBO Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • calcium influx
  • cold sensation
  • ORAI
  • sensory neuron
  • STIM


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