Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolution of primordial chemical sensor, nociception, sniffed out

Date:
March 23, 2010
Source:
Brandeis University
Summary:
Whenever you choke on acrid cigarette smoke, feel like you're burning up from a mouthful of wasabi-laced sushi, or cry while cutting raw onions and garlic, your response is being triggered by a primordial chemical sensor conserved across some 500 million years of animal evolution, report scientists.

Whenever you choke on acrid cigarette smoke, feel like you're burning up from a mouthful of wasabi-laced sushi, or cry while cutting raw onions and garlic, your response is being triggered by a primordial chemical sensor conserved across some 500 million years of animal evolution, report Brandeis University scientists in a study in Nature March 18.

Related Articles


Chemical nociception, the detection of tissue-damaging pungent chemicals like those found in wasabi, tear gas and cigarette smoke, is triggered by a protein receptor known as TRPA1, which is found throughout the human body in the nose, mouth, skin, lungs, and GI tract. Studying the chemical sensors of Drosophila fruit flies, scientists discovered that flies use their ortholog of the human TRPA1 sensor for the same purpose.

Using a combination of behavior, physiology and phylogenetics, the scientists discovered that this defensive response to noxious compounds is an evolutionary stalwart cutting across immense time scales and linking humans, insects and many other animals back to their common ancestor over 500 million years ago, said lead author and biologist Paul Garrity.

The ability to detect such noxious compounds, known as reactive electrophiles, is important for animal survival, prompting them to avoid potentially toxic food or dangerous situations. These receptors give animals a leg-up in survival by acting as a biological warning system, as it were. In humans, chemical nociception causes pain and inflammation.

"What the study, spearheaded by Kyeongjin Kang in my lab, shows, is that this chemical sense is nearly as ancient as vision," said Garrity. "While many aspects of other chemical senses like taste and smell have been independently invented multiple times over the course of animal evolution, the chemical sense that detects these reactive compounds is different. It uses a detector we have inherited in largely unaltered form from an organism that lived a half-billion years ago, an organism that is not only our ancestor, but the ancestor of every vertebrate and invertebrate alive today."

Working with biochemist Doug Theobald, the team reconstructed TRPA1's family tree back some 700 million years using a variety of bioinformatic methods. "We discovered that a new branch split off the tree at least 500 million years ago, and that this new branch, the TRPA1 branch, appeared to have had all the features needed for chemical sensing even back then," said Garrity. "Since that time, it appears that most animals, including humans, have maintained this same ancient system for detecting reactive chemicals."

And therein lies some of the future promise of harnessing TRPA1. Because the receptor is so widely dispersed throughout the animal kingdom, it holds promise both as a target for therapeutics and deterrents. Understanding more about how the receptor works may help lead to important applications in medicine and industry.

"One of the great things about studying TRPA1 is that basic science knowledge, of the kind you get working with fruit flies, can be applied in so many different ways. By learning more about how TRPA1 works, scientists can come up with new ways to turn the receptor off in humans to treat pain and inflammation. And they can also come up with new ways to turn the receptor on in pests like malaria-carrying mosquitoes and aphids to deter them from transmitting disease and destroying crops." said Garrity.

The other authors of the paper are Kyeongjin Kang, Stefan R. Pulver, now at the University of Cambridge, Vincent C. Panzano, Elaine C. Chang, Leslie C. Griffith, and Douglas L. Theobald.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brandeis University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brandeis University. "Evolution of primordial chemical sensor, nociception, sniffed out." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100317144630.htm>.
Brandeis University. (2010, March 23). Evolution of primordial chemical sensor, nociception, sniffed out. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100317144630.htm
Brandeis University. "Evolution of primordial chemical sensor, nociception, sniffed out." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100317144630.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) Faces in an area of mosaics is the latest find by archaeologists at a recently discovered tomb dating back to fourth century BC and the time of Alexander the Great in Greece. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) The United States has returns over 500 vases, bowls, axes, and other ancient artifacts mostly from the Ban Chiang archaeological site which were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins