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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evolutionary conservation and changes in insect TRP channels

Hironori Matsuura1, Takaaki Sokabe2, Keigo Kohno1, Makoto Tominaga23 and Tatsuhiko Kadowaki1*

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Chikusa, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan

2 Section of Cell Signaling, Okazaki Institute for Integrative Bioscience (National Institute for Physiological Sciences), National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Okazaki 444-8787, Japan

3 Department of Physiological Sciences, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Okazaki 444-8585, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:228  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-228

Published: 10 September 2009

Abstract

Background

TRP (Transient Receptor Potential) channels respond to diverse stimuli and thus function as the primary integrators of varied sensory information. They are also activated by various compounds and secondary messengers to mediate cell-cell interactions as well as to detect changes in the local environment. Their physiological roles have been primarily characterized only in mice and fruit flies, and evolutionary studies are limited. To understand the evolution of insect TRP channels and the mechanisms of integrating sensory inputs in insects, we have identified and compared TRP channel genes in Drosophila melanogaster, Bombyx mori, Tribolium castaneum, Apis mellifera, Nasonia vitripennis, and Pediculus humanus genomes as part of genome sequencing efforts.

Results

All the insects examined have 2 TRPV, 1 TRPN, 1 TRPM, 3 TRPC, and 1 TRPML subfamily members, demonstrating that these channels have the ancient origins in insects. The common pattern also suggests that the mechanisms for detecting mechanical and visual stimuli and maintaining lysosomal functions may be evolutionarily well conserved in insects. However, a TRPP channel, the most ancient TRP channel, is missing in B. mori, A. mellifera, and N. vitripennis. Although P. humanus and D. melanogaster contain 4 TRPA subfamily members, the other insects have 5 TRPA subfamily members. T. castaneum, A. mellifera, and N. vitripennis contain TRPA5 channels, which have been specifically retained or gained in Coleoptera and Hymenoptera. Furthermore, TRPA1, which functions for thermotaxis in Drosophila, is missing in A. mellifera and N. vitripennis; however, they have other Hymenoptera-specific TRPA channels (AmHsTRPA and NvHsTRPA). NvHsTRPA expressed in HEK293 cells is activated by temperature increase, demonstrating that HsTRPAs function as novel thermal sensors in Hymenoptera.

Conclusion

The total number of insect TRP family members is 13-14, approximately half that of mammalian TRP family members. As shown for mammalian TRP channels, this may suggest that single TRP channels are responsible for integrating diverse sensory inputs to maintain the insect sensory systems. The above results demonstrate that there are both evolutionary conservation and changes in insect TRP channels. In particular, the evolutionary processes have been accelerated in the TRPA subfamily, indicating divergence in the mechanisms that insects use to detect environmental temperatures.