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Michael Caterina M.D., Ph.D

Professor of Biological Chemistry

Telephone Number: 410-502-5457
Fax Number: 410-955-5759
Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine
Dept. of Biological Chemistry
725 North Wolfe St.
Baltimore, MD 21205
Room: Biophysics 408

TRP channel function in thermosensation, pain, inflammation and immunity

My lab studies the biological functions and biophysical characteristics of a group of ion channel proteins of the Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid (TRPV) family, TRPV1, TRPV2, TRPV3 and TRPV4.  These channels share the intriguing feature that they can be activated by warm or painfully hot temperatures, as well as by many nonthermal stimuli. For example, TRPV1, the founding member of this family, can be activated by painful heat (>42°C), by protons, or by pungent chemicals such as capsaicin.  This channel is strongly expressed in nociceptive neurons and is essential for normal behavioral responses to noxious heat.  More recently, we made the unexpected discovery that TRPV2 is critical for the ability of macrophages to carry out phagocytosis and to protect the host from infection with pathogenic bacteria.  By examining these channels in recombinant and native systems, and taking advantage of knockout mice lacking one or more subtypes, we are dissecting the biological contributions of these channels to thermosensory and nonthermosensory processes in both neuronal and nonneuronal cells.

Current areas of emphasis include:

1) Understanding the mechanisms by which TRPV1 and TRPV3 dynamically alter their selectivities among Ca2+, Na+ and other cations during persistent stimulation, and the biological significance of this plasticity

2) Understanding the mechanisms by which keratinocytes in the skin contribute to “indirect” thermosensation and pain perception by signaling to epidermal nerve endings

3) Examination of nonthermosensory roles for TRPV channels in epithelial cells of the skin and urinary bladder

4) Understanding the contribution of TRPV2 to phagocytosis and innate immune responses of macrophages and dendritic cells