Transient receptor potential ion channels as participants in thermosensation and thermoregulation

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303 Scopus citations


Living organisms must evaluate changes in environmental and internal temperatures to mount appropriate physiological and behavioral responses conducive to survival. Classical physiology has provided a wealth of information regarding the specialization of thermosensory functions among subclasses of peripheral sensory neurons and intrinsically thermosensitive neurons within the hypothalamus. However, until recently, the molecular mechanisms by which these cells carry out thermometry have remained poorly understood. The demonstration that certain ion channels of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family can be activated by increases or decreases in ambient temperature, along with the recognition of their heterogeneous expression patterns and heterogeneous temperature sensitivities, has led investigators to evaluate these proteins as candidate endogenous thermosensors. Much of this work has involved one specific channel, TRP vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), which is both a receptor for capsaicin and related pungent vanilloid compounds and a "heat receptor," capable of directly depolarizing neurons in response to temperatures >42°C. Evidence for a contribution of TRPV1 to peripheral thermosensation has come from pharmacological, physiological, and genetic approaches. In contrast, although capsaicin-sensitive mechanisms clearly influence core body temperature regulation, the specific contribution of TRPV1 to this process remains a matter of debate. Besides TRPV1, at least six additional thermally sensitive TRP channels have been identified in mammals, and many of these also appear to participate in thermosensation. Moreover, the identification of invertebrate TRP channels, whose genetic ablation alters thermally driven behaviors, makes it clear that thermosensation represents an evolutionarily conserved role of this ion channel family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R64-R76
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Capsaicin
  • Temperature
  • Thermotransduction
  • Vanilloid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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