Contribution of membrane receptor signalling to chronic visceral pain
Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease are major forms of chronic visceral pain, which affect over 15% of the global population. In order to identify new therapies, it is important to understand the underlying causes of chronic visceral pain. This review provides recent evidence demonstrating that inflammation or infection of the gastrointestinal tract triggers specific changes in the neuronal excitability of sensory pathways responsible for the transmission of nociceptive information from the periphery to the central nervous system. Specific changes in the expression and function of a variety of ion channels and receptors have been documented in inflammatory and chronic visceral pain conditions relevant to irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. An increase in pro-nociceptive mechanisms enhances peripheral drive from the viscera and provides an underlying basis for enhanced nociceptive signalling during chronic visceral pain states. Recent evidence also highlights increases in anti-nociceptive mechanisms in models of chronic visceral pain, which present novel targets for pharmacological treatment of this condition.