University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria researcher Eleonora Zakharian, Ph.D., co-authored an article published in the September 13, 2019, issue of Nature Communications. The article entitled “Structure of the thermosensitive TRP channel TRP1 from the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii” was a collaborative effort with the team of Alexander Sobolevsky, Ph.D., at Columbia University in New York City.

The article highlights the structure-function relationship of a temperature-sensitive TRP channel TRP1 from a microorganism. This ion channel is an evolutionary predecessor of the mammalian temperature and pain receptors. This new knowledge about structure-function relationship of TRP1 will therefore help with better understanding of temperature sensation in humans and the development of future analgesics. For the published findings, Zakharian’s lab took the lead on researching function at the single molecule level while Sobolevsky’s lab led the efforts on structure.

Algae produce the largest amount of oxygen on earth and are invaluable for human nutrition and biomedicine, as well as for the chemical industry, energy production and agriculture. The mechanisms by which algae can detect and respond to changes in their environments can rely on membrane receptors, including TRP ion channels. The published study provides the first structure of a TRP channel from a microorganism and a structural framework for better understanding algae biology and TRP channel evolution.

Zakharian is associate professor in the Cancer Biology and Pharmacology Department. Nature Communications is an international, peer-reviewed open access scientific journal that publishes high quality research in biology, health, physics, chemistry, Earth sciences and biology. Its parent company, Nature Research has principal offices in London, New York, Berlin, Shanghai and Tokyo.

TRP channel