Whether it's a freezing wind, a metal surface or an icicle, even in this 'post-genomic' age, scientists have little idea how our bodies sense cold things. Although heat receptors in sensory nerves that supply the skin were recently identified, those for cold have remained elusive. In a Nature article published online this week, David Julius and colleagues at the University of California in San Francisco report that they have identified just such a receptor. Sensitive to temperatures between 8 and 28° C, it is also stimulated by menthol -- the chemical that gives mint its 'cool' taste.
The new receptor, called a 'cold- and menthol-sensitive receptor' (CMR1), is a type of ion channel belonging to the transient receptor potential (TRP) family. Environmental changes cause these channels to change the flow of ions into nerve cells and therefore produce a nerve signal resulting in a sensation.
Some recently described heat receptors are members of the TRP family. TRP ion channels are also involved in vision, smell and pressure detection.
Department of Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology
UCSF, San Francisco
Tel: +1 415 476 0431
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza
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