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J Physiol. 2015 Aug 15;593(16):3483-91. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2014.280446. Epub 2015 Jan 5.

Molecular mechanisms of temperature adaptation.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT , 06520, USA.
Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT , 06520, USA.


Thermal perception is a fundamental physiological process pertaining to the vast majority of organisms. In vertebrates, environmental temperature is detected by the primary afferents of the somatosensory neurons in the skin, which express a 'choir' of ion channels tuned to detect particular temperatures. Nearly two decades of research have revealed a number of receptor ion channels that mediate the perception of several temperature ranges, but most still remain molecularly orphaned. Yet even within this well-researched realm, most of our knowledge largely pertains to two closely related species of rodents, mice and rats. While these are standard biomedical research models, mice and rats provide a limited perspective to elucidate the general principles that drive somatosensory evolution. In recent years, significant advances have been made in understanding the molecular mechanism of temperature adaptation in evolutionarily distant vertebrates and in organisms with acute thermal sensitivity. These studies have revealed the remarkable versatility of the somatosensory system and highlighted adaptations at the molecular level, which often include changes in biophysical properties of ion channels from the transient receptor potential family. Exploiting non-standard animal models has the potential to provide unexpected insights into general principles of thermosensation and thermoregulation, unachievable using the rodent model alone.

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