The molecular basis for species-specific activation of human TRPA1 protein by protons involves poorly conserved residues within transmembrane domains 5 and 6.J Biol Chem. 2013 Jul 12; 288(28):20280-92.JB
The surveillance of acid-base homeostasis is concerted by diverse mechanisms, including an activation of sensory afferents. Proton-evoked activation of rodent sensory neurons is mainly mediated by the capsaicin receptor TRPV1 and acid-sensing ion channels. In this study, we demonstrate that extracellular acidosis activates and sensitizes the human irritant receptor TRPA1 (hTRPA1). Proton-evoked membrane currents and calcium influx through hTRPA1 occurred at physiological acidic pH values, were concentration-dependent, and were blocked by the selective TRPA1 antagonist HC030031. Both rodent and rhesus monkey TRPA1 failed to respond to extracellular acidosis, and protons even inhibited rodent TRPA1. Accordingly, mouse dorsal root ganglion neurons lacking TRPV1 only responded to protons when hTRPA1 was expressed heterologously. This species-specific activation of hTRPA1 by protons was reversed in both mouse and rhesus monkey TRPA1 by exchange of distinct residues within transmembrane domains 5 and 6. Furthermore, protons seem to interact with an extracellular interaction site to gate TRPA1 and not via a modification of intracellular N-terminal cysteines known as important interaction sites for electrophilic TRPA1 agonists. Our data suggest that hTRPA1 acts as a sensor for extracellular acidosis in human sensory neurons and should thus be taken into account as a yet unrecognized transduction molecule for proton-evoked pain and inflammation. The species specificity of this property is unique among known endogenous TRPA1 agonists, possibly indicating that evolutionary pressure enforced TRPA1 to inherit the role as an acid sensor in human sensory neurons.