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Brain Nerve. 2009 Jul;61(7):867-73.

[Molecular mechanisms underlying thermosensation in mammals].

[Article in Japanese]

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Division of Cell Signaling, Okazaki Institute for Integrative Bioscience (National Institute for Physiological Sciences), National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Higashiyama 5-1, Myodaiji-cho, Okazaki, Aichi 444-8787, Japan.


Sensing environmental temperature is one of the most important fundamental functions of the living things on the earth. Recently, it has been revealed that several members of the TRP ion channel super family are activated by temperature changes. A number of reports clearly demonstrate that thermal activation of these thermosensitive TRP channels contributes to various temperature-dependent responses in vivo, such as thermosensation, thermotaxis, and the regulation of cellular/tissue functions at physiological body temperature. Nine TRP channels have been reported to respond to a physiological range of temperatures in mammals. TRPV1 and TRPV2 expressed in nociceptive neurons are activated by heat (> 43 degrees C and > 52 degrees C, respectively), and TRPV1-null mice show defects in sensing noxious heat. TRPV3 and TRPV4 are predominantly expressed in skin keratinocytes rather than in sensory neurons, and the gene knock-out of each channel causes abnormal thermotaxis in vivo. TRPM8, which senses cold temperatures (< 27 degrees C), is expressed in nociceptive and non-nociceptive neurons and its loss impairs cold sensitivity. TRPA1 is expressed in nociceptive neurons and acts as a sensor for various harmful stimuli, whereas its responsiveness to noxious cold stimuli is controversial even after the analysis of mice lacking the channel. Other thermoTRPs, TRPM2, TRPM4, and TRPM5 are not expressed in sensory neurons, and are reportedly involved in several functions at physiological body temperatures including insulin secretion, taste sensation, and immune response. In this review, I summarize the molecular mechanisms of thermosensation in mammals by focusing on thermosensitive TRP channels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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