Acetic acid applied to the hindlimb of a frog evokes a vigorous wiping of the exposed skin. The aim of this study was to determine if acetic acid evokes this wiping response by decreasing subepidermal pH. Because acetic acid is hyperosmolar, a second aim was to determine if the osmolarity of acetic acid contributed to evoking the wiping response. In behavioral experiments, different acids or acetic acid/sodium acetate buffers at different pHs were used to evoke the wiping response. In separate experiments, subepidermal pH was measured in vitro while these same solutions were applied to samples of skin from frogs. The wiping response evoked by acetic acid was associated with a decrease in subepidermal pH to a level that has been shown to activate nociceptors. Interestingly, formic, oxalic, sulfuric, and hydrochloric acid evoked the wiping response without decreasing subepidermal pH. The osmolarity of acetic acid contributed to evoking the wiping response because buffers at subthreshold pHs evoked the wiping response. Also, the osmolarity required to evoke the wiping response depended upon the pH of the buffer. Thus, acetic acid and the buffers at pH 2.97 and 4.67 could evoke the wiping response by decreasing subepidermal pH. In contrast, formic, oxalic, sulfuric, and hydrochloric acid, as well as the buffers at pH 5.17 and 5.67, evoked the wiping response through another mechanism, perhaps by increasing subepidermal osmolarity. These studies demonstrate that both pH and osmolarity may contribute to nociception produced by algesic chemicals and may be important in inflammatory pain. Themes: Sensory systems. Topics: Pain modulation: anatomy and physiology. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (DE 00270). The authors would like to thank Dr. Glenn Giesler and Mr. Stanley Harpstead for critically reviewing this manuscript. Thank you also to Daniel Pihlstrom and Patrick Puskala for their technical support in preliminary experiments.
- Hydrogen-ion concentration