Following cloning of the vanilloid receptor 1 (VR1) at least four other related proteins have been identified. Together, these form a distinct subgroup of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family of ion channels. Members of the vanilloid receptor family (TRPV) are activated by a diverse range of stimuli, including heat, protons, lipids, phorbols, phosphorylation, changes in extracellular osmolarity and/or pressure, and depletion of intracellular Ca2+ stores. However, VR1 remains the only channel activated by vanilloids such as capsaicin. These channels are excellent molecular candidates to fulfil a range of sensory and/or cellular roles that are well characterized physiologically. Furthermore, as novel pharmacological targets, the vanilloid receptors have potential for the development of many future disease treatments.