Day TRP-per

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Looking for something to read while you’re waiting for the rotovap to free up or the PAGE gel to finish running? You might want to take a look at yesterday’s issue of Nature, which has a number of chemistry/chemical papers. In addition to the paper by Serreli et al. that Katharine and Stuart mentioned, there’s a News & Views piece from Steven Nolan on Craig Forsyth’s recent ACIE paper and a paper from Stern et al. that describes miniature, ultra-sensitive sensors that can detect unlabeled antibodies at concentrations below 100 femtomolar (and can monitor the cellular immune response in ‘real-time’).

There’s also a cool paper involving the TRPA1 channelTRP channels respond to “”">temperature, touch, pain, osmolarity, pheromones, taste, and other stimuli," and the TRPA1 channel specifically responds to a range of structurally-diverse compounds, including mustard oil, acrolein, and icilin.

In Macpherson et al., the authors used ‘click chemistry’ to show that derivatives of mustard oil and cinnamaldehyde covalently bound to the TRPA1 channel. They used mass spectrometry to identify fourteen TRPA1 cysteine residues that reacted with iodoacetamide, three of which were required for normal channel function. From a chemical standpoint, this might not seem all that surprising, but this is apparently the first ion channel known to be activated by this mechanism, and I think it’s interesting to see how “tuning TRPA1 to respond to covalent modification by reactive compounds … [enables the nervous system to] directly assess the noxious environment of sensory neurons.” For those of you teaching biological/bio-organic chemistry courses, this might make a good test question – it’s a nice ‘real world’ example of how understanding basic organic chemistry can be used to explore how an enzyme works…


Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)

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