Calcium ions (Ca2+) are particularly important in cellular homeostasis and activity. To elicit physiologically relevant timing and spatial patterns of Ca2+ signaling, ion channels in the surface of each cell precisely control Ca2+ influx across the plasma membrane. A group of surface membrane ion channels called receptor-activated cation/Ca2+ channels (RACCs) are activated by diverse cellular stimuli from the surrounding extracellular environment via receptors and other pathways such as heat, osmotic pressure, and mechanical and oxidative stress. An important clue to understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the functional diversity of RACCs was first attained by molecular identification of the transient receptor potential (trp) protein (TRP), which mediates light-induced depolarization in Drosophila photoreceptor cells, and its homologues from various biological species. Recent studies have revealed that respective TRP channels are indeed activated by characteristic cellular stimuli. Furthermore, the involvement of TRP channels has been demonstrated in the signaling pathways essential for tissue-specific functions as well as ubiquitous biological responses, such as cell proliferation, differentiation, and death. These findings encourage the usage of TRP channels and their signalplexes as powerful tools for developing novel pharmaceutical targets.
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