Novartis Foundation symposium vol:258 pages:140-9; discussion 149-59, 263-6
Calcium entry controls a plethora of short- and long-term cell functions. With respect to the activation mechanisms of Ca2+ entry channels they are subdivided in the thoroughly characterized voltage-gated Ca2+ channels and the non-voltage gated Ca2+ channels. The latter group includes cation channels of the 'transient receptor potential' (TRP) superfamily, which consists of three subfamilies (TRPC, TRPV, TRPM). Activation of TRP channels is not yet completely understood, but examples of activation mechanisms of TRP channels from all three subfamilies will be discussed. The main focus is on the members of the TRPV subfamily, among which the TRPV4 channel shows a surprising gating promiscuity. It can be activated by cell swelling, heat and phorbol esters. Endogenous activators of the channel have not yet been described. It will be shown that lipid messengers related to arachidonic acid are endogenous TRPV4 activators. For TRPV5 and 6, the only highly Ca2+ selective channels within the TRP super-family, a voltage-dependent gating mechanism will be discussed, which includes an open pore block by Mg2+ and a highly Ca2+-sensitive mechanism of inactivation. Regulation of channel availability by interaction with a protein bound to a site at the C-terminus of both channels will be demonstrated. Functional consequences of these different mechanisms of gating will be discussed.