TRPV1 was found to be made up of a pore domain embedded in the cell membrane and a hanging basket of regulatory domains, according to PNAS paper.

Investigators report generating the first 3-D view of the protein known as TRPV1 that lets people sense the heat of a hot pepper as well as real heat and the pain and inflammation related to other medical conditions.

It has been known that the burning sensation of a chili pepper results from the action of a chemical known as capsaicin on TRPV1, an ion channel found on the nerve-cell membrane, and that different levels of heat are mediated by different TRP (transient receptor potential) channels.

The 3-D image of a rat TRPV1 channel expressed in S. cerevisiae revealed surprising information about its structure, according to the scientists. It is made up of a pore domain embedded in the cell membrane and a hanging basket of regulatory domains that extend into the interior of the cell.

“Visualization of TRPV1 gives us insight on other TRP channels since they are structurally similar,” says Vera Moiseenkova-Bell, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate at Baylor College of Medicine and first author of the study. “Pharmaceutical companies target these TRP channels to make sure the drug binds properly. With this first structure we can start to build models of binding sites and hopefully in the future design more effective pharmaceuticals for a wide range of medical conditions.”

The study was conducted by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and Purdue University. The report appeared on May 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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