On the mechanism of TBA block of the TRPV1 channel

Biophys J. 2007 Jun 1;92(11):3901-14. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.106.102400. Epub 2007 Mar 16.


The transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channel is a nonselective cation channel activated by capsaicin and responsible for thermosensation. To date, little is known about the gating characteristics of these channels. Here we used tetrabutylammonium (TBA) to determine whether this molecule behaves as an ion conduction blocker in TRPV1 channels and to gain insight into the nature of the activation gate of this protein. TBA belongs to a family of classic potassium channel blockers that have been widely used as tools for determining the localization of the activation gate and the properties of the pore of several ion channels. We found TBA to be a voltage-dependent pore blocker and that the properties of block are consistent with an open-state blocker, with the TBA molecule binding to multiple open states, each with different blocker affinities. Kinetics of channel closure and burst-length analysis in the presence of blocker are consistent with a state-dependent blocking mechanism, with TBA interfering with closing of an activation gate. This activation gate may be located cytoplasmically with respect to the binding site of TBA ions, similar to what has been observed in potassium channels. We propose an allosteric model for TRPV1 activation and block by TBA, which explains our experimental data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Detergents / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / pharmacology*
  • TRPV Cation Channels / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Detergents
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 protein, human
  • tetrabutylammonium