TRPA1 is a ligand-activated cation channel found in the intestine and other tissues. Components of food that stimulate TRPA1 receptors (phytonutrients) include allyl isothiocyanate, cinnamaldehyde and linalool, but these may also act at other receptors. Cells lining the intestinal mucosa are immunoreactive for TRPA1 and Trpa1
mRNA occurs in mucosal extracts, suggesting that the TRPA1 receptor is the target for these agonists. However, in situ hybridisation reveals Trpa1
expression in 5-HT containing enteroendocrine cells, not enterocytes. TRPA1 agonists evoke mucosal secretion, which may be indirect (through release of 5-HT) or direct by activation of enterocytes. We investigated effects of the phytonutrients on transmucosal ion currents in mouse duodenum and colon, and the specificity of the phytonutrients in cells transfected with Trpa1
, and in Trpa1
-deficient mice. The phytonutrients increased currents in the duodenum with the relative potencies: allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) > cinnamaldehyde > linalool (0.1 to 300 μM). The rank order was similar in the colon, but linalool was ineffective. Responses to AITC were reduced by the TRPA1 antagonist HC-030031 (100 μM), and were greatly diminished in Trpa1
−/− duodenum and colon. Responses were not reduced by tetrodotoxin, 5-HT receptor antagonists, or atropine, but inhibition of prostaglandin synthesis reduced responses. Thus, functional TRPA1 channels are expressed by enterocytes of the duodenum and colon. Activation of enterocyte TRPA1 by food components has the potential to facilitate nutrient absorption.
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