The history of TRP channels, a commentary and reflection
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- Montell, C. Pflugers Arch - Eur J Physiol (2011) 461: 499. doi:10.1007/s00424-010-0920-3
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The transient receptor potential (TRP) family of cation channels has redefined our understanding of sensory physiology. In one animal or another, all senses depend on TRP channels. These include vision, taste, smell, hearing, and various forms of touch, including the ability to sense changes in temperature. The first trp gene was identified because it was disrupted in a Drosophila mutant with defective vision. However, there was no clue as to its biochemical function until the cloning, and analysis of the deduced amino acid sequence suggested that trp encoded a cation channel. This concept was further supported by subsequent electrophysiological studies, including alteration of its ion selectivity by an amino acid substitution within the pore loop. The study of TRP channels emerged as a field with the identification of mammalian homologs, some of which are direct sensors of environmental temperature. At least one TRP channel is activated downstream of a thermosensory signaling cascade, demonstrating that there exist two modes of activation, direct and indirect, through which TRP channels respond to changes in temperature. Mutations in many TRP channels result in disease, including a variety of sensory impairments.