Transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) channels are part of the TRP channel superfamily and named after the first identified member TRPV1, that is sensitive to the vanillylamide capsaicin. Their overall structure is similar to the structure of voltage gated potassium channels (Kv) built up as homotetramers from subunits with six transmembrane helices (S1-S6). Six TRPV channel subtypes (TRPV1-6) are known, that can be subdivided into the thermoTRPV (TRPV1-4) and the Ca2+-selective TRPV channels (TRPV5, TRPV6). Contrary to Kv channels, TRPV channels are not primary voltage gated. All six channels have distinct properties and react to several endogenous ligands as well as different gating stimuli such as heat, pH, mechanical stress, or osmotic changes. Their physiological functions are highly diverse and subtype as well as tissue specific. In many tissues they serve as sensors for different pain stimuli (heat, pressure, pH) and contribute to the homeostasis of electrolytes, the maintenance of barrier functions and the development of macrophages. Due to their fundamental role in manifold physiological and pathophysiological processes, TRPV channels are promising targets for drug development. However, drugs targeting specific TRPV channels, that are suitable for drug therapy, are rare. Moreover, selective and potent compounds for further research at TRPV channels are often lacking. In this review different aspects of the structure, the different gating stimuli, the expression pattern, the physiological and pathophysiological roles as well as the modulating mechanisms of synthetic, natural and endogenous ligands are summarized.
Keywords: TRPV; Molecular pharmacology; Capsaicin; Ion channel modulation; Medicinal chemistry.
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