Monoterpenoid agonists of TRPV3

Br J Pharmacol. 2007 Jun;151(4):530-40. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0707245. Epub 2007 Apr 10.


Background and purpose: Transient receptor potential (TRP) V3 is a thermosensitive ion channel expressed predominantly in the skin and neural tissues. It is activated by warmth and the monoterpene camphor and has been hypothesized to be involved in skin sensitization. A selection of monoterpenoid compounds was tested for TRPV3 activation to establish a structure-function relationship. The related channel TRPM8 is activated by cool temperatures and a number of chemicals, among them the monoterpene (-)-menthol. The overlap of the receptor pharmacology between the two channels was investigated.

Experimental approach: Transfected HEK293 cells were superfused with the test substances. Evoked currents were measured in whole cell patch clamp measurements. Dose-response curves for the most potent agonists were obtained in Xenopus laevis oocytes.

Key results: Six monoterpenes significantly more potent than camphor were identified: 6-tert-butyl-m-cresol, carvacrol, dihydrocarveol, thymol, carveol and (+)-borneol. Their EC(50) is up to 16 times lower than that of camphor. All of these compounds carry a ring-located hydroxyl group and neither activates TRPM8 to a major extent.

Conclusions and implications: Terpenoids have long been recognized as medically and pharmacologically active compounds, although their molecular targets have only partially been identified. TRPV3 activation may be responsible for several of the described effects of terpenoids. We show here that TRPV3 is activated by a number of monoterpenes and that a secondary hydroxyl-group is a structural requirement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • TRPM Cation Channels / agonists
  • TRPV Cation Channels / agonists*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Monoterpenes
  • TRPM Cation Channels
  • TRPM8 protein, human
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV3 protein, human