Forcing open TRP channels: Mechanical gating as a unifying activation mechanism

Chao Liu, Craig Montell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Transient receptor potential (TRP) proteins are cation channels that comprise a superfamily of molecular sensors that enable animals to detect a wide variety of environmental stimuli. This versatility enables vertebrate and invertebrate TRP channels to function in a diversity of senses, ranging from vision to taste, smell, touch, hearing, proprioception and thermosensation. Moreover, many individual TRP channels are activated through a surprising range of sensory stimuli. The multitasking nature of TRP channels raises the question as to whether seemingly disparate activators gate TRPs through common strategies. In this regard, a recent major advance is the discovery that a phospholipase C (PLC)-dependent signaling cascade activates the TRP channels in Drosophila photoreceptor cells through generation of force in the lipid-bilayer. The premise of this review is that mechanical force is a unifying, common strategy for gating TRP channels. In addition to several TRP channels that function in mechanosensation and are gated by force applied to the cells, changes in temperature or alterations in the concentration of lipophilic second messengers through stimulation of signaling cascades, cause architectural modifications of the cell membrane, which in turn activate TRP channels through mechanical force. Consequently, TRPs are capable of functioning as stretch-activated channels, even in cases in which the stimuli that initiate the signaling cascades are not mechanical. We propose that most TRPs are actually mechanosensitive channels (MSCs), which undergo conformational changes in response to tension imposed on the lipid bilayer, resulting in channel gating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-25
Number of pages4
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 19 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Mechanical gating
  • Mechanosensitive channels
  • PLC-dependent signaling
  • TRP channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Forcing open TRP channels: Mechanical gating as a unifying activation mechanism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this