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Protein family review

The transient receptor potential family of ion channels

Bernd Nilius and Grzegorz Owsianik*

Author Affiliations

Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Laboratory of Ion Channel Research, Campus Gasthuisberg, KU Leuven, Herestraat 49, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium

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Genome Biology 2011, 12:218  doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-3-218

Published: 17 March 2011

Abstract

The transient receptor potential (TRP) multigene superfamily encodes integral membrane proteins that function as ion channels. Members of this family are conserved in yeast, invertebrates and vertebrates. The TRP family is subdivided into seven subfamilies: TRPC (canonical), TRPV (vanilloid), TRPM (melastatin), TRPP (polycystin), TRPML (mucolipin), TRPA (ankyrin) and TRPN (NOMPC-like); the latter is found only in invertebrates and fish. TRP ion channels are widely expressed in many different tissues and cell types, where they are involved in diverse physiological processes, such as sensation of different stimuli or ion homeostasis. Most TRPs are non-selective cation channels, only few are highly Ca2+ selective, some are even permeable for highly hydrated Mg2+ ions. This channel family shows a variety of gating mechanisms, with modes of activation ranging from ligand binding, voltage and changes in temperature to covalent modifications of nucleophilic residues. Activated TRP channels cause depolarization of the cellular membrane, which in turn activates voltage-dependent ion channels, resulting in a change of intracellular Ca2+ concentration; they serve as gatekeeper for transcellular transport of several cations (such as Ca2+ and Mg2+), and are required for the function of intracellular organelles (such as endosomes and lysosomes). Because of their function as intracellular Ca2+ release channels, they have an important regulatory role in cellular organelles. Mutations in several TRP genes have been implicated in diverse pathological states, including neurodegenerative disorders, skeletal dysplasia, kidney disorders and pain, and ongoing research may help find new therapies for treatments of related diseases.