The vanilloid transient receptor potential channel TRPV3 is a putative molecular thermosensor widely considered to be involved in cutaneous sensation, skin homeostasis, nociception, and pruritus. Repeated stimulation of TRPV3 by high temperatures above 50 °C progressively increases its responses and shifts the activation threshold to physiological temperatures. This use-dependence does not occur in the related heat-sensitive TRPV1 channel in which responses decrease, and the activation threshold is retained above 40 °C during activations. By combining structure-based mutagenesis, electrophysiology, and molecular modeling, we showed that chimeric replacement of the residues from the TRPV3 cytoplasmic inter-subunit interface (N251–E257) with the homologous residues of TRPV1 resulted in channels that, similarly to TRPV1, exhibited a lowered thermal threshold, were sensitized, and failed to close completely after intense stimulation. Crosslinking of this interface by the engineered disulfide bridge between substituted cysteines F259C and V385C (or, to a lesser extent, Y382C) locked the channel in an open state. On the other hand, mutation of a single residue within this region (E736) resulted in heat resistant channels. We propose that alterations in the cytoplasmic inter-subunit interface produce shifts in the channel gating equilibrium and that this domain is critical for the use-dependence of the heat sensitivity of TRPV3.
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