Tackling pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis: Proton-sensing receptors

Wei Hsin Sun*, Shih Ping Dai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), characterized by chronic inflammation of synovial joints, is often associated with ongoing pain and increased pain sensitivity. Chronic pain that comes with RA turns independent, essentially becoming its own disease. It could partly explain that a significant number (50%) of RA patients fail to respond to current RA therapies that focus mainly on suppression of joint inflammation. The acute phase of pain seems to associate with joint inflammation in early RA. In established RA, the chronic phase of pain could be linked to inflammatory components of neuron-immune interactions and noninflammatory components. Accumulating evidence suggests that the initial inflammation and autoimmunity in RA (preclinical RA) begin outside of the joint and may originate at mucosal sites and alterations in the composition of microbiota located at mucosal sites could be essential for mucosal inflammation, triggering joint inflammation. Fibroblast-like synoviocytes in the inflamed joint respond to cytokines to release acidic components, lowering pH in synovial fluid. Extracellular proton binds to proton-sensing ion channels, and G-protein-coupled receptors in joint nociceptive fibers may contribute to sensory transduction and release of neurotransmitters, leading to pain and hyperalgesia. Activation of peripheral sensory neurons or nociceptors further modulates inflammation, resulting in neuroinflammation or neurogenic inflammation. Peripheral and central nerves work with non-neuronal cells (such as immune cells, glial cells) in concert to contribute to the chronic phase of RA-associated pain. This review will discuss actions of proton-sensing receptors on neurons or non-neuronal cells that modulate RA pathology and associated chronic pain, and it will be beneficial for the development of future therapeutic treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • Chronic pain
  • Gut microbiota
  • Neuron-immune interaction
  • Proton-sensing receptors
  • Rheumatoid arthritis


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