TRP channels are a large group of ion channels, comprising six protein families, located mostly on the plasma membrane of numerous human and animal cell types, and in some fungi. TRP channels were initially discovered in the trp mutant strain of the fruit fly Drosophila which displayed transient elevation of potential in response to light stimuli and were so named "transient receptor potential" channels. The name now refers only to a family of proteins with similar structure and function, not to the mechanism of their activation. Later, TRP channels were found in vertebrates where they are ubiquitously expressed in many cell types and tissues. There are about 28 TRP channels that share some structural similarity to each other. These are grouped into two broad groups: group 1 includes, TRPC ( "C" for canonical), TRPV ("V" for vanilloid), TRPM ("M" for melastatin), TRPN and TRPA. In group 2 there are TRPP ("P" for polycystic) and TRPML ("ML" for mucolipin).
Mutations in TRPs have been linked to neurodegenerative disorders, skeletal dysplasia, kidney disorders, and may play an important role in cancer. TRPs may make important therapeutic targets. There is significant clinical significance to TRPV1, TRPV2, and TRPV3's role as thermoreceptors, and TRPV4’s role as mechanoreceptors; reduction of chronic pain may be possible by targeting ion channels involved in thermal, chemical, and mechanical sensation to reduce their sensitivity to stimuli. For instance, the use of TRPV1 agonists would potentially inhibit nociception at TRPV1, particularly in pancreatic tissue where TRPV1 is highly expressed. The TRPV1 agonist capsaicin, found in chili peppers, has been indicated to relieve neuropathic pain. TRPV1 agonists inhibit nociception at TRPV1
Altered expression of TRP proteins often leads to tumorigenesis, clearly seen in TRPM1. Particularly high levels of TRPV6 in prostate cancer have been noted. Such observations could be helpful in following cancer progression and could lead to the development of drugs over activating ion channels, leading to apoptosis and necrosis. Much research remains to be done as to whether TRP channel mutations lead to cancer progression or whether they are associated mutations.
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