TRP (transient receptor potential) channels comprise a superfamily of non-selective cation channels with at least seven subfamilies. The variety of subfamilies corresponds to the differences in the activation mechanisms and functions. TRPM3 (TRP melastatin 3) and TRPV4 (TRP vanilloid 3) have been characterized as cation channels activated by extracellular hypo-osmoticity. In addition, TRPV4 is activated by metabolites of arachidonic acid as well as α-isomers of phorbol esters known to be ineffective in stimulating proteins of the protein kinase C family. TRPM3 is responsive to sphingosine derivatives. The detection of splice variants with probably different activation mechanisms supports the idea that TRPM3 may have diverse cellular functions depending on the expression of a particular variant. The expression of TRPV4 in many epithelial cell types raised the question of the role of TRPV4 in epithelial physiology. Single-cell experiments as well as approaches using epithelial layers show that multiple cellular responses are triggered by TRPV4 activation and subsequent elevation of intracellular calcium. The TRPV4-induced responses increasing transcellular ion flux as well as paracellular permeability may allow the cells to adjust to changes in extracellular osmolarity. In summary, TRPV4 plays a central role in epithelial homoeostasis by modulating epithelial barrier function.

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