Summary: Cellular receptors which mediate the sense of temperature. Thermoreceptors in vertebrates are mostly located under the skin. In mammals there are separate types of thermoreceptors for cold and for warmth and NOCICEPTORS which detect cold or heat extreme enough to cause pain.

Top Publications

  1. Jordt S, McKemy D, Julius D. Lessons from peppers and peppermint: the molecular logic of thermosensation. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2003;13:487-92 pubmed
    ..Analysis of TRP channel expression among sensory neurons is also providing insight into how thermal stimuli are encoded by the peripheral nervous system. ..
  2. Clark D, Biron D, Sengupta P, Samuel A. The AFD sensory neurons encode multiple functions underlying thermotactic behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans. J Neurosci. 2006;26:7444-51 pubmed
    ..Encoding multiple functions in individual sensory neurons may enable C. elegans to perform complex behaviors with simple neuronal circuits. ..
  3. Parra A, Madrid R, Echevarria D, del Olmo S, Morenilla Palao C, Acosta M, et al. Ocular surface wetness is regulated by TRPM8-dependent cold thermoreceptors of the cornea. Nat Med. 2010;16:1396-9 pubmed publisher
    Basal tearing is crucial to maintaining ocular surface wetness. Corneal cold thermoreceptors sense small oscillations in ambient temperature and change their discharge accordingly...
  4. Schepers R, Ringkamp M. Thermoreceptors and thermosensitive afferents. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010;34:177-84 pubmed publisher
    ..This review summarizes findings regarding the transduction proteins and the primary afferents activated by innocuous and noxious cold and heat. ..
  5. Viana F, De La Pena E, Belmonte C. Specificity of cold thermotransduction is determined by differential ionic channel expression. Nat Neurosci. 2002;5:254-60 pubmed
    ..These results suggest that cold sensitivity is not associated to a specific transduction molecule but instead results from a favorable blend of ionic channels expressed in a small subset of sensory neurons. ..
  6. Brock J, Pianova S, Belmonte C. Differences between nerve terminal impulses of polymodal nociceptors and cold sensory receptors of the guinea-pig cornea. J Physiol. 2001;533:493-501 pubmed
    ..In contrast, cold-sensitive receptor nerve endings appear to be passively invaded from a point more proximal in the axon where the action potential can fail or be initiated. ..
  7. Biron D, Wasserman S, Thomas J, Samuel A, Sengupta P. An olfactory neuron responds stochastically to temperature and modulates Caenorhabditis elegans thermotactic behavior. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105:11002-7 pubmed publisher
    ..Our observations suggest that the AFD and AWC neurons encode thermal stimuli via distinct strategies to regulate C. elegans thermotactic behavior. ..
  8. Malkia A, Madrid R, Meseguer V, De La Pena E, Valero M, Belmonte C, et al. Bidirectional shifts of TRPM8 channel gating by temperature and chemical agents modulate the cold sensitivity of mammalian thermoreceptors. J Physiol. 2007;581:155-74 pubmed
    ..difference in voltage-dependence readily explains the high threshold temperatures characteristic of many cold thermoreceptors. The modulation of TRPM8 activity by different chemical agents unveils an important flexibility in the ..
  9. Schmitz H, Trenner S. Electrophysiological characterization of the multipolar thermoreceptors in the "fire-beetle" Merimna atrata and comparison with the infrared sensilla of Melanophila acuminata (both Coleoptera, Buprestidae). J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003;189:715-22 pubmed
    ..These results show that the photomechanic sensillum of Melanophila has a higher sensitivity, and that the latencies are considerably shorter. ..

More Information


  1. Story G, Peier A, Reeve A, Eid S, Mosbacher J, Hricik T, et al. ANKTM1, a TRP-like channel expressed in nociceptive neurons, is activated by cold temperatures. Cell. 2003;112:819-29 pubmed
    ..Consistent with the expression of ANKTM1, we identify noxious cold-sensitive sensory neurons that also respond to capsaicin but not to menthol. ..
  2. Beverly M, Anbil S, Sengupta P. Degeneracy and neuromodulation among thermosensory neurons contribute to robust thermosensory behaviors in Caenorhabditis elegans. J Neurosci. 2011;31:11718-27 pubmed publisher
  3. Schepers R, Ringkamp M. Thermoreceptors and thermosensitive afferents. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009;33:205-12 pubmed publisher
    ..This review summarizes findings regarding the transduction proteins and the primary afferents activated by innocuous and noxious cold and heat. ..
  4. Campbell A, Naik R, Sowards L, Stone M. Biological infrared imaging and sensing. Micron. 2002;33:211-25 pubmed
    A variety of thermoreceptors are present in animals and insects, which aid them in hunting, feeding and survival...
  5. Nealen M, Gold M, Thut P, Caterina M. TRPM8 mRNA is expressed in a subset of cold-responsive trigeminal neurons from rat. J Neurophysiol. 2003;90:515-20 pubmed
    ..Together with previous findings, our data support the notion that cold responsive neurons are functionally heterogeneous. ..
  6. Reid G, Babes A, Pluteanu F. A cold- and menthol-activated current in rat dorsal root ganglion neurones: properties and role in cold transduction. J Physiol. 2002;545:595-614 pubmed
    Skin temperature is sensed by peripheral thermoreceptors. Using the neuronal soma in primary culture as a model of the receptor terminal, we have investigated the mechanisms of cold transduction in thermoreceptive neurones from rat ..
  7. Reid G, Flonta M. Physiology. Cold current in thermoreceptive neurons. Nature. 2001;413:480 pubmed
    We sense the temperature of our skin and surroundings using specific thermoreceptors, which are sensitive to cold and warmth, but little is known about how these receptors transduce temperature into electrical activity...
  8. McKemy D, Neuhausser W, Julius D. Identification of a cold receptor reveals a general role for TRP channels in thermosensation. Nature. 2002;416:52-8 pubmed
  9. Peier A, Moqrich A, Hergarden A, Reeve A, Andersson D, Story G, et al. A TRP channel that senses cold stimuli and menthol. Cell. 2002;108:705-15 pubmed
    ..Our identification of a cold-sensing TRP channel in a distinct subpopulation of sensory neurons implicates an expanded role for this family of ion channels in somatic sensory detection. ..
  10. Okazawa M, Takao K, Hori A, Shiraki T, Matsumura K, Kobayashi S. Ionic basis of cold receptors acting as thermostats. J Neurosci. 2002;22:3994-4001 pubmed
    ..Because these thermal properties were consistent with that in cold fibers, we conclude that the same cold receptors exist at nerve endings and generate afferent impulses for cold sensation and heat-gain behaviors in response to cold. ..
  11. Heppelmann B, Gallar J, Trost B, Schmidt R, Belmonte C. Three-dimensional reconstruction of scleral cold thermoreceptors of the cat eye. J Comp Neurol. 2001;441:148-54 pubmed
    ..This suggests that cold sensory endings do not require specialized cellular processes for the transduction of cold stimuli, as is the case for multimodal transduction and sensitization in the terminal portion of polymodal nociceptors. ..
  12. Orio P, Madrid R, De La Pena E, Parra A, Meseguer V, Bayliss D, et al. Characteristics and physiological role of hyperpolarization activated currents in mouse cold thermoreceptors. J Physiol. 2009;587:1961-76 pubmed publisher
    ..Behavioural responses to cooling were reduced in HCN1 null mice and after peripheral pharmacological blockade of I(h) with ZD7288, suggesting that I(h) plays an important role in peripheral sensitivity to cold. ..
  13. Bandell M, Macpherson L, Patapoutian A. From chills to chilis: mechanisms for thermosensation and chemesthesis via thermoTRPs. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2007;17:490-7 pubmed
    ..Recent studies have provided some striking new insights into the molecular mechanism of thermal and chemical activation of these biological thermometers. ..
  14. Blouin J, Corbeil P, Teasdale N. Postural stability is altered by the stimulation of pain but not warm receptors in humans. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2003;4:23 pubmed
    ..A painful stimulation (45 degrees C) of the skin thermoreceptors, however, yielded a deterioration of the postural control system...
  15. Acosta M, Luna C, Quirce S, Belmonte C, Gallar J. Corneal sensory nerve activity in an experimental model of UV keratitis. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014;55:3403-12 pubmed publisher
    ..7 ± 0.2 vs. 3.4 ± 0.5 imps/s; P < 0.05). In contrast, cold thermoreceptors showed a significantly lower ongoing activity at 34°C (8.6 ± 0.5 vs. 6.1 ± 0.9 imp/s; P < 0...
  16. Li Q, Thornhill J. A functional medial preoptic nucleus (MPO) is required for scrotal thermal stimuli to alter the neuronal activity of thermoresponsive ventromedial hypothalamic (VMH) neurons. Brain Res. 1996;716:134-40 pubmed
    ..Results infer that a functional MPO is required for thermal afferent signals arising from the scrotum to reach thermoresponsive VMH neurons. ..
  17. Fujii Y, Tanaka H, Konno N, Ogasawara Y, Hamashima N, Tamura S, et al. Phototropin perceives temperature based on the lifetime of its photoactivated state. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114:9206-9211 pubmed publisher
    ..Thus, photoreceptors may have the potential to function as thermoreceptors.
  18. Kozyreva T, Tkachenko E, Simonova T. [The functional modifications under the long-term adaptation to cold]. Usp Fiziol Nauk. 2003;34:76-84 pubmed
    ..The body of data evidences for the important role of the thermoreceptors in the adaptive changes of the cold-defense responses.
  19. Meier P, Berde C, DiCanzio J, Zurakowski D, Sethna N. Quantitative assessment of cutaneous thermal and vibration sensation and thermal pain detection thresholds in healthy children and adolescents. Muscle Nerve. 2001;24:1339-45 pubmed
    ..Based on these results, QST may be used to document and monitor the clinical course of sensory abnormalities in children with neurological disorders or neuropathic pain. ..
  20. Pappas T, Motamedi M, Christensen B. Unique temperature-activated neurons from pit viper thermosensors. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2004;287:C1219-28 pubmed
    ..Our findings indicate that a novel temperature-sensitive conductance with unique ion permeability and low-temperature threshold is expressed in TG neurons and may be involved in highly sensitive heat detection in snakes...
  21. Koska J, Rovensky J, Zimanova T, Vigas M. Growth hormone and prolactin responses during partial and whole body warm-water immersions. Acta Physiol Scand. 2003;178:19-23 pubmed
    To elucidate the role of core and skin thermoreceptors in the release of growth hormone (GH) and prolactin (PRL), a sequence of two experiments using whole-body (head-out) and partial (one forearm) hot water immersions was performed...
  22. Moon C, Terashima S, Yasuzumi F, Shin T. Snake infrared receptors respond to dimethylsulfoxide in the blood stream. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2004;24:749-56 pubmed
    ..TG) neurons (primary neurons) of a crotaline snake, Trimeresurus flavoviridis, which has very sensitive thermoreceptors, to examine changes in the IR response induced by dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), in vivo. 2...
  23. Wingo J, Low D, Keller D, Kimura K, Crandall C. Combined facial heating and inhalation of hot air do not alter thermoeffector responses in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2015;309:R623-7 pubmed publisher
    The influence of thermoreceptors in human facial skin on thermoeffector responses is equivocal; furthermore, the presence of thermoreceptors in the respiratory tract and their involvement in thermal homeostasis has not been elucidated...
  24. Carr R, Brock J. Electrophysiology of corneal cold receptor nerve terminals. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2002;508:19-23 pubmed
    ..Instead, changes in NTI shape may reflect changes in nerve terminal membrane potential that underlie the process of thermal transduction. ..
  25. Parmeggiani P, Azzaroni A, Calasso M. Behavioral state-dependent thermal feedback influencing the hypothalamic thermostat. Arch Ital Biol. 2000;138:277-83 pubmed
  26. Craig A, Zhang E, Blomqvist A. Association of spinothalamic lamina I neurons and their ascending axons with calbindin-immunoreactivity in monkey and human. Pain. 2002;97:105-15 pubmed
    ..These findings support the view that lamina I STT neurons are involved in spinal cordotomies that reduce pain, temperature and itch sensations. ..
  27. Belmonte C, Nichols J, Cox S, Brock J, Begley C, Bereiter D, et al. TFOS DEWS II pain and sensation report. Ocul Surf. 2017;15:404-437 pubmed publisher
    ..and thermal heat stimulation of the ocular surface is mediated by trigeminal ganglion neurons, while cold thermoreceptors detect wetness and reflexly maintain basal tear production and blinking rate...
  28. Dong X, Dong Q, Zhang X, Zhu L. [Antipyretic effect of moxibustion at different temperatures and its relationship with the activity of temperature sensitive neurons in thermotaxic center]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2012;32:149-54 pubmed
    ..As a result, the antipyretic effect was obtained. It is concluded that the effective result of moxibustion is achieved by stimulating polymodal receptors of acupoints. ..
  29. Orio P, Parra A, Madrid R, Gonzalez O, Belmonte C, Viana F. Role of Ih in the firing pattern of mammalian cold thermoreceptor endings. J Neurophysiol. 2012;108:3009-23 pubmed publisher
    Mammalian peripheral cold thermoreceptors respond to cooling of their sensory endings with an increase in firing rate and modification of their discharge pattern...
  30. Moon C, Terashima S. Response of the infrared receptors of a crotaline snake to ethanol. Neurosci Lett. 2002;334:29-32 pubmed
    ..These results suggest that the IR response to EtOH is due to either its vasodilatory effect on the abundant vasculature of the pit membrane or its chemical effect on temperature-sensitive receptors. ..
  31. Ebihara S, Kohzuki M, Sumi Y, Ebihara T. Sensory stimulation to improve swallowing reflex and prevent aspiration pneumonia in elderly dysphagic people. J Pharmacol Sci. 2011;115:99-104 pubmed
    ..A combination of these sensory stimuli may improve the swallowing disorders and prevent aspiration pneumonia. ..
  32. Trojan J, Stolle A, Kleinböhl D, Mørch C, Arendt Nielsen L, Hölzl R. The saltation illusion demonstrates integrative processing of spatiotemporal information in thermoceptive and nociceptive networks. Exp Brain Res. 2006;170:88-96 pubmed
    ..The saltation paradigm constitutes a promising approach to the functional analysis of spatiotemporal dynamics in thermoceptive and nociceptive networks to supplement brain-mapping approaches to cortical sensory fields. ..
  33. Sabnis A, Shadid M, Yost G, Reilly C. Human lung epithelial cells express a functional cold-sensing TRPM8 variant. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2008;39:466-74 pubmed publisher
    ..Collectively, our results suggest that this novel TRPM8 variant receptor may function as a modulator of respiratory physiology caused by cold air, and may partially explain asthmatic respiratory hypersensitivity to cold air. ..
  34. Hwang S, Oh U. Current concepts of nociception: nociceptive molecular sensors in sensory neurons. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2007;20:427-34 pubmed
    ..The acid-sensing ion channel and P2X channel that detect extracellular acidosis and ATP are also implicated in some types of pain. Voltage-gated sodium or calcium channels draw attention because of their involvement in neuropathic pain. ..
  35. Lin M, Liu S, Niu L, Xu F, Lu T. Analysis of thermal-induced dentinal fluid flow and its implications in dental thermal pain. Arch Oral Biol. 2011;56:846-54 pubmed publisher
    ..The initiation of the pain sensation experienced following the thermal stimulation of dentine has been correlated with fluid flow in the dentinal tubules. There may be other mechanisms...
  36. Greenspan J, Roy E, Caldwell P, Farooq N. Thermosensory intensity and affect throughout the perceptible range. Somatosens Mot Res. 2003;20:19-26 pubmed
    ..These differences could be exploited to differentiate processing relevant to discriminative vs affective components of somesthetic perception, in both the innocuous and noxious ranges. ..
  37. Liu L, Yermolaieva O, Johnson W, Abboud F, Welsh M. Identification and function of thermosensory neurons in Drosophila larvae. Nat Neurosci. 2003;6:267-73 pubmed
    ..These data establish a functional map of thermoresponsive neurons in Drosophila larvae and provide a foundation for understanding mechanisms of thermoreception in both insects and mammals. ..
  38. Vetter I, Hein A, Sattler S, Hessler S, Touska F, Bressan E, et al. Amplified cold transduction in native nociceptors by M-channel inhibition. J Neurosci. 2013;33:16627-41 pubmed publisher
    ..Low-threshold corneal cold thermoreceptors that express high levels of TRPM8 and lack potassium channels are not affected by camphor...
  39. Iwata K, Fukuoka T, Kondo E, Tsuboi Y, Tashiro A, Noguchi K, et al. Plastic changes in nociceptive transmission of the rat spinal cord with advancing age. J Neurophysiol. 2002;87:1086-93 pubmed
    ..These results demonstrate an age-related plasticity in spinal nociceptive processing that is related to impairment of descending modulatory pathways...
  40. Bhopale V, Kupprion E, Ashton F, Boston R, Schad G. Ancylostoma caninum: the finger cell neurons mediate thermotactic behavior by infective larvae of the dog hookworm. Exp Parasitol. 2001;97:70-6 pubmed
    ..pair of neurons, each of which ends in a cluster of microvilli-like projections, are known to be the primary thermoreceptors. A similar neuron pair in the amphids of the parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus is also known to be ..
  41. Lloyd A, Hodder S, Havenith G. The interaction between peripheral and central fatigue at different muscle temperatures during sustained isometric contractions. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2015;309:R410-20 pubmed publisher
    ..linked to active and passive changes in core temperature, as well as integration of sensory feedback from thermoreceptors in the skin...
  42. Filingeri D, Zhang H, Arens E. Characteristics of the local cutaneous sensory thermoneutral zone. J Neurophysiol. 2017;117:1797-1806 pubmed publisher
    ..i>experiment 2 determined a thermally neutral zone centered around a thermally neutral point in which thermoreceptors' activity is balanced. The zone was found to be narrow (~0.98 to ~1...
  43. Craig A, Zhang E, Blomqvist A. A distinct thermoreceptive subregion of lamina I in nucleus caudalis of the owl monkey. J Comp Neurol. 1999;404:221-34 pubmed
    ..In addition, these observations corroborate other findings that have indicated that lamina I COLD cells are pyramidal neurons and are not physiologically modulated by substance P or serotonin, in contrast to nociceptive neurons. ..
  44. Maloney S, Mitchell D. Regulation of ram scrotal temperature during heat exposure, cold exposure, fever and exercise. J Physiol. 1996;496 ( Pt 2):421-30 pubmed
    ..4. We suggested that Tscrotum is regulated independently of Tbody via a feedback circuit involving scrotal thermoreceptors and effectors in the form of tunica dartos muscle activity and scrotal sweat gland activity...
  45. Teliban A, Bartsch F, Struck M, Baron R, Jänig W. Axonal thermosensitivity and mechanosensitivity of cutaneous afferent neurons. Eur J Neurosci. 2011;33:110-8 pubmed publisher
    ..Mechanosensitivity is restricted to the afferent endings in the skin. ..
  46. Chung G, Jung S, Oh S. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of dental nociception. J Dent Res. 2013;92:948-55 pubmed publisher
    ..Further understanding of the molecular mechanisms of dental pain would greatly enhance the development of therapeutics that target dental pain. ..
  47. Kamo H, Honda K, Kitagawa J, Tsuboi Y, Kondo M, Taira M, et al. Topical capsaicin application causes cold hypersensitivity in awake monkeys. J Oral Sci. 2008;50:175-9 pubmed
    ..The present findings suggest that topical application of capsaicin to the facial skin induces reversible hypersensitivity to a facial cold stimulus in behaving monkeys. ..
  48. Harkins S, Price D, Roy A, Itskovich V, Fei D. Somatosensory evoked potentials associated with thermal activation of type II Adelta mechanoheat nociceptive afferents. Int J Neurosci. 2000;104:93-111 pubmed
    ..EPs to painful contact thermal stimuli may be of value in the evaluation of small fiber peripheral neuropathies and assessment of altered pain states. ..
  49. Corfas R, Vosshall L. The cation channel TRPA1 tunes mosquito thermotaxis to host temperatures. elife. 2015;4: pubmed publisher
    ..Here we elucidate the basic rules of Aedes aegypti thermotaxis and test the function of candidate thermoreceptors in this important behavior...
  50. Jozsa L, Balint J, Kannus P, Jarvinen M, Lehto M. Mechanoreceptors in human myotendinous junction. Muscle Nerve. 1993;16:453-7 pubmed
    ..Further studies are needed to give functional explanation for these anatomic findings. ..
  51. Moloney N, Hall T, O Sullivan T, Doody C. Reliability of thermal quantitative sensory testing of the hand in a cohort of young, healthy adults. Muscle Nerve. 2011;44:547-52 pubmed publisher
    ..Cold pain threshold measures may be suitable for group comparisons, but a large variance in the data limits individual analyses. ..
  52. Bacher L, Smotherman W, Robertson S. Effects of warmth on newborn rats' motor activity and oral responsiveness to an artificial nipple. Behav Neurosci. 2001;115:675-82 pubmed
    ..Warmth increased pups' motor activity but only while the heat was applied. Warmth in a thermoneutral environment may promote longer nipple attachment during newborns' early feeding experiences. ..
  53. Ni L, Klein M, Svec K, Budelli G, Chang E, Ferrer A, et al. The Ionotropic Receptors IR21a and IR25a mediate cool sensing in Drosophila. elife. 2016;5: pubmed publisher
    Animals rely on highly sensitive thermoreceptors to seek out optimal temperatures, but the molecular mechanisms of thermosensing are not well understood...