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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2014;223:937-62. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-05161-1_9.

Evolutionarily conserved, multitasking TRP channels: lessons from worms and flies.

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Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, University of Texas School of Medicine, Houston, TX, 77030, USA,


The Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channel family is comprised of a large group of cation-permeable channels, which display an extraordinary diversity of roles in sensory signaling. TRPs allow animals to detect chemicals, mechanical force, light, and changes in temperature. Consequently, these channels control a plethora of animal behaviors. Moreover, their functions are not limited to the classical senses, as they are cellular sensors, which are critical for ionic homeostasis and metabolism. Two genetically tractable invertebrate model organisms, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster, have led the way in revealing a wide array of sensory roles and behaviors that depend on TRP channels. Two overriding themes have emerged from these studies. First, TRPs are multitasking proteins, and second, many functions and modes of activation of these channels are evolutionarily conserved, including some that were formerly thought to be unique to invertebrates, such as phototransduction. Thus, worms and flies offer the potential to decipher roles for mammalian TRPs, which would otherwise not be suspected.

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