Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28644. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028644. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

Molecular evolution of the infrared sensory gene TRPA1 in snakes and implications for functional studies.

Author information

  • 1Key Laboratory of Gene Engineering of the Ministry of Education, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, People's Republic of China.


TRPA1 is a calcium ion channel protein recently identified as the infrared receptor in pit organ-containing snakes. Therefore, understanding the molecular evolution of TRPA1 may help to illuminate the origin of "heat vision" in snakes and reveal the molecular mechanism of infrared sensitivity for TRPA1. To this end, we sequenced the infrared sensory gene TRPA1 in 24 snake species, representing nine snake families and multiple non-snake outgroups. We found that TRPA1 is under strong positive selection in the pit-bearing snakes studied, but not in other non-pit snakes and non-snake vertebrates. As a comparison, TRPV1, a gene closely related to TRPA1, was found to be under strong purifying selection in all the species studied, with no difference in the strength of selection between pit-bearing snakes and non-pit snakes. This finding demonstrates that the adaptive evolution of TRPA1 specifically occurred within the pit-bearing snakes and may be related to the functional modification for detecting infrared radiation. In addition, by comparing the TRPA1 protein sequences, we identified 11 amino acid sites that were diverged in pit-bearing snakes but conserved in non-pit snakes and other vertebrates, 21 sites that were diverged only within pit-vipers but conserved in the remaining snakes. These specific amino acid substitutions may be potentially functional important for infrared sensing.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk