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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 4;104(49):19607-12. Epub 2007 Nov 27.

Yeast gain-of-function mutations reveal structure-function relationships conserved among different subfamilies of transient receptor potential channels.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Department of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Transient receptor potential (TRP) channels found in animals, protists, and fungi are primary chemo-, thermo-, or mechanosensors. Current research emphasizes the characteristics of individual channels in each animal TRP subfamily but not the mechanisms common across subfamilies. A forward genetic screen of the TrpY1, the yeast TRP channel, recovered gain-of-function (GOF) mutations with phenotype in vivo and in vitro. Single-channel patch-clamp analyses of these GOF-mutant channels show prominent aberrations in open probability and channel kinetics. These mutations revealed functionally important aromatic amino acid residues in four locations: at the intracellular end of the fifth transmembrane helix (TM5), at both ends of TM6, and at the immediate extension of TM6. These aromatics have counterparts in most TRP subfamilies. The one in TM5 (F380L) aligns precisely with an exceptional Drosophila mutant allele (F550I) that causes constitutive activity in the canonical TRP channel, resulting in rapid and severe retinal degeneration beyond mere loss of phototaxis. Thus, this phenylalanine maintains the balance of various functional states (conformations) of a channel for insect phototransduction as well as one for fungal mechanotransduction. This residue is among a small cluster of phenylalanines found in all known subfamilies of TRP channels. This unique case illustrates that GOF mutations can reveal structure-function principles that can be generalized across different TRP subfamilies. It appears that the conserved aromatics in the four locations have conserved functions in most TRP channels. The possible mechanistic roles of these aromatics and the further use of yeast genetics to dissect TRP channels are discussed.

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