TRPs et al.: a molecular toolkit for thermosensory adaptations

  • Lydia J. Hoffstaetter
  • Sviatoslav N. Bagriantsev
  • Elena O. Gracheva
Invited Review


The ability to sense temperature is crucial for the survival of an organism. Temperature influences all biological operations, from rates of metabolic reactions to protein folding, and broad behavioral functions, from feeding to breeding, and other seasonal activities. The evolution of specialized thermosensory adaptations has enabled animals to inhabit extreme temperature niches and to perform specific temperature-dependent behaviors. The function of sensory neurons depends on the participation of various types of ion channels. Each of the channels involved in neuronal excitability, whether through the generation of receptor potential, action potential, or the maintenance of the resting potential have temperature-dependent properties that can tune the neuron’s response to temperature stimuli. Since the function of all proteins is affected by temperature, animals need adaptations not only for detecting different temperatures, but also for maintaining sensory ability at different temperatures. A full understanding of the molecular mechanism of thermosensation requires an investigation of all channel types at each step of thermosensory transduction. A fruitful avenue of investigation into how different molecules can contribute to the fine-tuning of temperature sensitivity is to study the specialized adaptations of various species. Given the diversity of molecular participants at each stage of sensory transduction, animals have a toolkit of channels at their disposal to adapt their thermosensitivity to their particular habitats or behavioral circumstances.


Thermosensation Molecular adaptations Ion channels TRP channels Neuronal excitability 



We would like to thank Jeremy Borjon for his careful reading of this manuscript.

Funding information

This study was partly funded by fellowships from the Beckman Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation and National Institute of Health grant 1R01NS091300-01A1 to E.O.G; by American Heart Association grant 14SDG17880015 and National Science Foundation grant 1453167 to S.N.B; and L.J.H was supported by the National Institute of Health training grant 5 T32 HG003198.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lydia J. Hoffstaetter
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sviatoslav N. Bagriantsev
    • 1
  • Elena O. Gracheva
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Cellular and Molecular PhysiologyYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeuroscienceYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and RepairYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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