Pflügers Archiv - European Journal of Physiology

, Volume 464, Issue 5, pp 425–458 | Cite as

The transient receptor potential channel TRPA1: from gene to pathophysiology

  • Bernd Nilius
  • Giovanni Appendino
  • Grzegorz Owsianik
Invited Review


The Transient Receptor Potential Ankyrin 1 channel (TRPA1), is a member of the large TRP family of ion channels, and functions as a Ca2+ permeable non-selective cation channel in many different cell processes, ranging from sensory to homeostatic tasks. TRPA1 is highly conserved across the animal kingdom. The only mammalian TRPA subfamily member, TRPA1, is widely expressed in neuronal (e.g. sensory dorsal root and trigeminal ganglia neurons)- and in non-neuronal cells (e.g. epithelial cells, hair cells). It exhibits 14–19 amino-(N-)terminal ankyrin repeats, an unusual structural feature. The TRPA1 channel is activated by noxious cold (<17 °C) as well as by a plethora of chemical compounds that includes not only electrophilic compounds and oxidants that can modify, in an alkylative or oxidative fashion, nucleophilic cysteine residues in the channel’s N-terminus, but also compounds that do not covalently bind to the channel proteins (e.g. menthol, nifedipin). Based on localization and functional properties, TRPA1 is considered a key player in acute and chronic (neuropathic) pain and inflammation. Moreover, its role in the (patho)physiology of nearly all organ systems is anticipated, and will be discussed along with the potential of TRPA1 as a drug target for the management of various pathological conditions.


Transient receptor potential Ca2+ channels Ankyrin repeat domain Nociception Mechano-sensing Channeloparthies 



We thank the members of the Laboratory of Ion Channel Research for helpful discussions. This work was supported by grants from the Belgian Federal Government (IUAP P5/05), the Research Foundation-Flanders (G.0172.03, G.0565.07 and G.0149.03), and the Research Council of the KU Leuven (GOA 2004/07 and EF/95/010).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernd Nilius
    • 1
  • Giovanni Appendino
    • 2
  • Grzegorz Owsianik
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Laboratory Ion Channel ResearchKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche AlimentariFarmaceutiche e FarmacologicheNovaraItaly

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