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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Oct 2022 - 14 Oct 2022

2022 Oct 10

J Neurogenet

The light-activated TRP channel: the founding member of the TRP channel superfamily.



The light-activated Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channel is the founding member of a large and diverse family of channel proteins. The TRP (dTRP) channel, which generates the electrical response to light has been investigated in a great detail two decades before the first mammalian TRP channel was discovered. Thus, dTRP is unique among members of the TRP channel superfamily because its physiological role and the enzymatic cascade underlying its activation are established. In this article we outline the research leading to elucidation of dTRP as the light activated channel and focus on a major physiological property of the dTRP channel, which is indirect activation via a cascade of enzymatic reactions. These detailed pioneering studies, based on the genetic dissection approach, revealed that light activation of the TRP channel is mediated by G-Protein-Coupled Receptor (GPCR)-dependent enzymatic cascade, in which phospholipase C β (PLC) is a crucial component. This physiological mechanism of TRP channel activation was later found in mammalian TRPC channels. However, the initial studies on the mammalian TRPV1 channel indicated that it is activated directly by capsaicin, low pH and hot temperature (>42 °C). This mechanism of activation was apparently at odds with the activation mechanism of the TRPC channels in general and the light activated TRP/TRPL channels in particular, which are target of a GPCR-activated PLC cascade. Subsequent studies have indicated that under physiological conditions TRPV1 is also target of a GPCR-activated PLC cascade in the generation of inflammatory pain. The light-activated TRP channel is still a useful experimental paradigm because its physiological function as the light-activated channel is known, powerful genetic techniques can be applied to its further analysis, and signaling molecules involved in the activation of these channels are available.