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J Gen Physiol. 2008 Nov;132(5):547-62. doi: 10.1085/jgp.200810051.

Properties of the inner pore region of TRPV1 channels revealed by block with quaternary ammoniums.

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Departamento de Fisiología, Facultad de Medicina, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, D.F., 04510, México


The transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) nonselective cationic channel is a polymodal receptor that activates in response to a wide variety of stimuli. To date, little structural information about this channel is available. Here, we used quaternary ammonium ions (QAs) of different sizes in an effort to gain some insight into the nature and dimensions of the pore of TRPV1. We found that all four QAs used, tetraethylammonium (TEA), tetrapropylammonium (TPrA), tetrabutylammonium, and tetrapentylammonium, block the TRPV1 channel from the intracellular face of the channel in a voltage-dependent manner, and that block by these molecules occurs with different kinetics, with the bigger molecules becoming slower blockers. We also found that TPrA and the larger QAs can only block the channel in the open state, and that they interfere with the channel's activation gate upon closing, which is observed as a slowing of tail current kinetics. TEA does not interfere with the activation gate, indicating that this molecule can reside in its blocking site even when the channel is closed. The dependence of the rate constants on the size of the blocker suggests a size of around 10 A for the inner pore of TRPV1 channels.

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