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Molecular thermometers on skin cells detect heat and camphor

says Patapoutian. "The answer seems to be 'yes.'"

This is significant because it suggests that TRPV3 is a potential drug target. TRPV3 is one of many receptors that participate in signaling pain--an indication for which there is a great need for new therapeutics.

Indeed, several compounds that are currently under investigation for alleviating chronic pain target the action of a protein called TRPV1 (VR1), which is similar to TRPV3.

Molecular Thermometers

TRPV3 and TRPV1 are both proteins that belong to a class of molecules known as "transient receptor potential" channels. There are at least six of these TRP channel proteins in humans and other mammals, and there has been growing evidence in the last few years that these proteins are "molecular thermometers" that detect hot and cold temperatures through the skin and communicate the sensation of temperature to the brain.

The most obvious evidence is that TRP channels are activated by thermal heat within a particular temperature range--from the extremely cold to the extremely hot. TRPV3, for instance, becomes activated at warm and hot temperatures of 33° C (91.5° F) and above. Similarly, other TRP channels are specifically activated within hot, warm, cool, or cold temperature ranges.

Most of these temperature-gated channels are also located where scientists would expect the molecules that communicate temperature to the brain to be located--in the sensory neurons that connect the skin to the spinal column and the brain. These proteins become activated when they receive the correct stimuli (such as a certain temperature), and this causes them to open and allow electrically charged ions to pass through and cause an electrical potential that signals the brain.

Patapoutian and his colleagues discovered TRPV3 a few years ago by conducting a computer search through an early-assembled draft of the human genome. Its sequence similarity to other temperature-gated proteins l
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Source:Scripps Research Institute


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