Specialized somatosensory neurons detect temperatures ranging from pleasantly cool or warm to burning hot and painful (nociceptive). The precise temperature ranges sensed by thermally sensitive neurons is determined by tissue-specific expression of ion channels of the transient receptor potential (TRP) family. We show here that in Drosophila, TRPA1 is required for the sensing of nociceptive heat. We identify two previously unidentified protein isoforms of dTRPA1, named dTRPA1-C and dTRPA1-D, that explain this requirement. A dTRPA1-C/D reporter was exclusively expressed in nociceptors, and dTRPA1-C rescued thermal nociception phenotypes when restored to mutant nociceptors. However, surprisingly, we find that dTRPA1-C is not a direct heat sensor. Alternative splicing generates at least four isoforms of dTRPA1. Our analysis of these isoforms reveals a 37-amino-acid-long intracellular region (encoded by a single exon) that is critical for dTRPA1 temperature responses. The identification of these amino acids opens the door to a biophysical understanding of a molecular thermosensor.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.