Mammalian Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) Cation Channels

Volume 222 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 647-658


TRPML2 and Mucolipin Evolution

  • Jaime García-AñoverosAffiliated withDepartment of Anesthesiology, Northwestern UniversityDepartment of Physiology and Neurology, Northwestern UniversityThe Hugh Knowles Center for Clinical and Basic Science in Hearing and Its Disorders, Northwestern University Email author 
  • , Teerawat WiwatpanitAffiliated withDriskill Graduate Program in the Life Sciences, Northwestern University

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The TRPML2 protein, encoded by the Mcoln2 gene, is one of the three mucolipins (TRPML1–3), a subset of the TRP superfamily of ion channels. Although there are no thorough studies on the cellular distribution of TRPML2, its mRNA appears to be largely restricted to lymphocytes and other immune cells. This contrasts with the ubiquitous expression of TRPML1 and the limited but diverse expression of TRPML3 and clearly suggests a specialized role for TRPML2 in immunity. Localization studies indicate that TRPML2 is present in lysosomes (including the specialized lysosome-related organelle that B-lymphocytes use for processing of the antigen-bound B-cell receptor), late endosomes, recycling endosomes, and, at a much lower level, the plasma membrane. Heterologously expressed TRPML2, like TRPML1 and/or TRPML3, forms ion channels that can be activated by a gain-of-function mutation (alanine to proline in the fifth transmembrane domain, close to the pore) that favors the open state, by a transient reduction of extracellular sodium followed by sodium replenishment, by small chemicals related to sulfonamides, and by PI(3,5)P2, a rare phosphoinositide that naturally accumulates in the membranes of endosomes and lysosomes and thus could act as a physiologically relevant agonist. TRPML2 channels are inwardly rectifying and permeable to Ca2+, Na+, and Fe2+. When heterologously co-expressed, TRPML2 can form heteromultimers with TRPML1 and TRPML3. In B-lymphocytes, TRPML2 and TRPML1 may play redundant roles in the function of their specialized lysosome. Although the specific subcellular function of TRPML2 is unknown, distribution and channel properties suggest roles in calcium release from endolysosomes, perhaps to regulate vesicle fusion and/or subsequent scission or to release calcium from intracellular acidic stores for signaling in the cytosol. Alternatively, TRPML2 could function in the plasma membrane, and its abundance in vesicles of the endocytic pathway could simply be due to regulation by endocytosis and exocytosis. The Mcoln2 gene is closely downstream from and in the same orientation as Mcoln3 in the genomes of most jawed vertebrates (from humans to sharks) with the exception of pigs, Xenopus tropicalis, and ray-finned fishes. The close homology of TRPML2 and 3 (closer to each other than to TRPML1) suggests that Mcoln2 and Mcoln3 arose from unequal crossing over that duplicated a common ancestor and placed both gene copies in tandem. These genes would have come apart subsequently in pigs, Xenopus, and the ancestor to ray-finned fishes. All jawed vertebrates for which we have thorough genomic knowledge have distinct Mcoln1, 2, and 3 genes (except ray-finned fishes which, probably due to the whole-genome duplication in their common ancestor, have two Mcoln1-like genes and two Mcoln3-like genes, although only one Mcoln2 gene). However, the available genomes of invertebrate deuterostomes (a sea urchin, lancelet, and two tunicates) contain a single mucolipin gene that is equally distant from the three vertebrate mucolipins. Hence, vertebrate mucolipins arose through two rounds of gene duplication (the first one likely producing Mcoln1 and the ancestor to Mcoln2 and 3) at some time between the onset of craniates and that of jawed vertebrates. This is also the evolutionary period during which adaptive immunity appeared. Given the restricted expression of TRPML2 in immune cells, this evolutionary history suggests a functional role in the adaptive immunity characteristic of vertebrates.


Mucolipin Mcoln Mcoln2 TRPML TRPML2 Endosome Lysosome Lymphocyte Ion channel Channel evolution Adaptive immunity