Schüler A , Schmitz G, Reft A, Özbek S, Thurm U and Bornberg-Bauer E
The rise and fall of TRP-N, an ancient family of mechanogated ion channels, in metazoan
Genome Biology and Evolution, 2015

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Abstract

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Mechanoreception, the sensing of mechanical forces, is an ancient means of orientation and communication and tightly linked to the evolution of motile animals. In flies, the transient-receptor-potential N protein (TRP-N) was found to be a cilia-associated mechanoreceptor. TRP-N belongs to a large and diverse family of ion channels. Its unusually long N-terminal repeat of 28 ankyrin domains presumably acts as the gating spring by which mechanical energy induces channel gating.
We analysed the evolutionary origins and possible diversification of TRP-N. Using a custom made set of highly discriminative sequence profiles we scanned a representative set of metazoan genomes and subsequently corrected several gene models. We find that, contrary to other ion channel families, TRP-N is remarkably conserved in its domain arrangements and copy number (one) in all Bilateria except for amniotes, even in the wake of several whole genome duplications. TRP-N is absent in Porifera but present in Ctenophora and Placozoa. Exceptional multiplications of TRP-N occurred in Cnidaria, independently along the Hydra and the Nematostella lineage. Molecular signals of subfunctionalisation can be attributed to different mechanisms of activation of the gating spring. In Hydra this is further supported by in situ hybridisation and immune staining, suggesting that at least three paralogs adapted to nematocyte discharge, which is key for predation and defence. We propose that these new candidate proteins help explain the sensory complexity of Cnidaria which has been previously observed but so far has lacked a molecular underpinning. Also, the ancient appearance of TRP-N supports a common origin of important components of the nervous systems in Ctenophores, Cnidaria and Bilateria.