Copyright ? 2007 by the Genetics Society of America
A Specific Subset of Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid-Type Channel
Subunits in Caenorhabditis elegans Endocrine Cells Function as Mixed
Heteromers to Promote Neurotransmitter Release
Antony M. Jose,1I. Amy Bany,2Daniel L. Chase and Michael R. Koelle3
Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520
Manuscript received September 5, 2006
Accepted for publication October 2, 2006
Transient receptor potential (TRP) channel subunits form homotetramers that function in sensory
transduction. Heteromeric channels also form, but their physiological subunit compositions and functions
are largely unknown. We found a dominant-negative mutant of the C. elegans TRPV (vanilloid-type) subunit
OCR-2 that apparently incorporates into and inactivates OCR-2 homomers as well as heteromers with the
TRPV subunits OCR-1 and -4, resulting in a premature egg-laying defect. This defect is reproduced by
knocking out all three OCR genes, but not by any single knockout. Thus a mixture of redundant
heteromeric channels prevents premature egg laying. These channels, as well as the G-protein Gao,
function in neuroendocrine cells to promote release of neurotransmitters that block egg laying until eggs
filling the uterus deform the neuroendocrine cells. The TRPV channel OSM-9, previously suggested to be
an obligate heteromeric partner of OCR-2 in sensory neurons, is expressed in the neuroendocrine cells but
has no detectable role in egg laying. Our results identify a specific set of heteromeric TRPV channels that
redundantly regulate neuroendocrine function and show that a subunit combination that functions in
sensory neurons is also present in neuroendocrine cells but has no detectable function in these cells.
transient receptor potential (TRP) family to translate
sensory stimuli into electrical signals (Montell 2005).
These tetrameric cation channels can be homomers of
identical subunits or heteromers of two or more dif-
ferent subunits. TRP channels have been widely studied
by overexpressing homomeric channels in cultured
cells or Xenopus oocytes. However, it remains unclear
to what extent native TRP channels function as homo-
mers vs. as heteromers, and what rules might govern
the association of the various TRP subunits into func-
Genetic studies can potentially reveal the physiolog-
ical functions of TRP channels and whether homomers
or heteromers carry out these functions. Four of the six
mammalian TRPV (vanilloid-type) subunits have been
knocked out in mice. TRPV1 knockouts have defects in
responding to noxious stimuli (Caterina et al. 2000;
Davis et al. 2000), in osmosensation by neurons of the
supraoptic nucleus (Naeini et al. 2006), and in mecha-
OUCH, hearing, taste, vision, smell, and temper-
ature sensation may all rely on channels of the
nosensation by urothelial cells (Birder et al. 2002).
TRPV3 knockouts have a defect in thermosensation by
the skin (Moqrich et al. 2005). TRPV4 knockouts have
defects in sensing systemic osmotic pressure (Liedtke
et al. 2000). Finally, TRPV5 knockouts have renal Ca21-
handling defects (Hoenderop et al. 2003a). It remains
unclear whether these defects are due to loss of ho-
momeric channels or due to the knockouts disrupting
a more complex mixture of heteromers. In addition,
TRPV subunits are expressed in overlapping patterns
with other TRP subunits in tissues such as the inner ear,
brain, and heart (Montell 2005), where their func-
tions have not been revealed by the knockout studies.
One reason for this could be that, as in Drosophila
vision, coexpressed TRP subunits may compensate
for the lack of one TRP subunit in single knockouts
(Niemeyer et al. 1996; Reuss et al. 1997).
The functions of coexpressed TRPV subunits have
invertebrates (Montell 2005; Kahn-Kirby and Barg-
mann 2006). The Caenorhabditis elegans TRPV subunit
OSM-9 is found in the ciliated endings of neurons that
sense touch to the nose (Colbert et al. 1997). Nose
TRPV subunit, OCR-2, which depend on each other for
localization to cilia (Tobinet al. 2002). The Drosophila
TRPV subunits IAV and NAN (similar to OSM-9 and
OCR-2, respectively) similarly depend on each other for
localization to chordotonal cilia (Kim et al. 2003; Gong
1Present address: Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology,
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.
2Present address: Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health,
Bethesda, MD 20892.
3Corresponding author: Department of Molecular Biophysics and Bio-
chemistry, Yale University School of Medicine, SHM CE30, New Haven,
CT 06520-8024. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Genetics 175: 93–105 ( January 2007)
the hypothesis that the coexpressed OSM-9/IAV and
OCR-2/NAN subunits form obligate heteromers for
proper localization to cilia and for function.
Here, we find that three coexpressed C. elegans TRPV
subunits (OCR-1, -2, and -4) apparently form a complex
mixture of functionally redundant homomeric and
heteromeric TRPV channels to control neurotransmit-
ter release from neuroendocrine cells. These channels
can be inactivated by a dominant-negative OCR-2 sub-
unit to reveal a defect in egg-laying behavior not seen
in any of the single subunit knockouts. Further, the
obligate partner of OCR-2 in sensory neurons, OSM-9,
although coexpressed with the other channel subunits
in the neuroendocrine cells, does not function with
them in these cells.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
C. elegans strains: All strains except those containing dpy-
20(e1282ts) were grown at 20? and maintained using standard
methods (Brenner 1974). Worms containing dpy-20(e1282ts)
were grown at 25?. The strains used in this study included N2
wild type, LX671 ocr-2(vs29) IV, LX843 ocr-2(ak47) IV, CX10
osm-9(ky10) IV, LX844 ocr-1(ok132) V, LX979 ocr-1(ak46) V,
LX950 ocr-4(vs137) IV, LX980 ocr-4(vs137) IV; ocr-1(ok132) V,
LX981 ocr-2(ak47) ocr-4(vs137) IV, LX982 ocr-2(ak47) ocr-
4(vs137) IV; ocr-1(ok132) V, LX842 ocr-2(vs29) osm-9(ky10) IV,
LX748 ocr-2(ak47) osm-9(ky10) IV, LX983 ocr-2(ak47) osm-
9(ky10) IV; ocr-1(ak46) V, LX984 ocr-4(vs137) osm-9(ky10) IV,
MT13113 tdc-1(n3419) II, LX845 ocr-2(ak47) IV; ocr-1(ok132) V,
LX669 unc-44(e362) ocr-2(vs29) dpy-20(e1282ts) IV, LX670 ocr-
2(vs29) dpy-20(e1282ts) IV, LX725 ocr-2(ak47) dpy-20(e1282ts)
IV, MT8189 lin-15(n765ts), and LX491 goa-1(n1134) I; lin-
ocr-4 deletion mutant: An ocr-4 deletion (vs137) was gener-
ated using standard C. elegans gene knockout methods (Hess
et al. 2005). vs137 has a 688-bp deletion with 1 base inserted
(uppercase ‘‘T’’ below). The resulting sequence around the
Behavioral assays: Animals for behavioral assays were
isolated as late L4 larvae and aged 11.5 hr at 20? (Figure
1C),24hrat25?(Figure 2D),or 36hr at20?(allother figures)
to obtain precisely staged adults. Numbers of unlaid or
prematurely laid eggs were measured as in Chase and Koelle
(2004) or Jose and Koelle (2005), respectively. Nose touch
avoidance (Kaplan and Horvitz 1993) and osmotic avoid-
ance (Hilliard et al. 2002) assays were adapted as described
below. Worms were placed on agar plates with no bacteria and
assayed 10–40 sec later. For nose touch avoidance, an eyelash
was placed in the path of an advancing worm to cause head-on
collisions and a response (stopping forward movement and
starting a reversal within 3 sec) was scored. vs29 animals failed
vs29 animals attempted to move under it. For osmotic
avoidance, a 100-nl drop of 2 m fructose (Sigma, St. Louis)
was placed in the path of an advancing worm and a response
(stopping forward movement, starting a reversal within 3 sec,
briefly stopped forward movement and then advanced into
the drop, whereas vs29 animals briefly stopped forward
movement, initiated a short reversal, and then advanced into
the drop. For transgenic experiments, animals that showed
expression of the cotransformation marker were chosen from
five independent transgenic lines, and 40 eggs laid by animals
from each line were assayed. Student’s t-test was used to
calculate 95% confidence intervals for numbers of eggs shown
in Figure 1, A–C. In all other assays, 95% confidence intervals
for a single proportion were calculated using Wilson’s esti-
mates, and P-values for comparison of two proportions were
calculated using the proportion of pooled values (Moore and
Transgenes: Germline transformation was as described by
attempted using the cosmids C07G1 and T09A12 (i and ii,
org/supplemental/), and a plasmid (iii in supplemental
Figure S1 at http:/ /www.genetics.org/supplemental/) with
ocr-2 genomic DNAcontaining 2.4 kbupstream of theinitiator
ATG, the coding region, and 1.0 kb of downstream sequences.
A total of 10 ng/ml of each clone and 10 ng/ml of myo-2Tgfp
(co-injection marker, gift of A. Fire, Stanford University) was
injected into vs29 animals. For OCR-2 overexpression experi-
ments, cDNA encoding OCR-2 (gift from C. Bargmann,
Rockefeller University) or encoding OCR-2(Y395F) was used
to replace the ocr-2 coding region in supplemental Figure
10 ng/ml of myo-2Tgfp was injected into wild-type animals. To
express full-length OCR-2TGFP or OCR-2(Y395F)TGFP, the
gfp gene from pPD95.69 (gift of A. Fire) was fused to the wild-
type cDNA construct above or the OCR-2(Y395F) cDNA to
make fusion proteins with green fluorescent protein (GFP)
precisely after the C-terminal residue of OCR-2 or OCR-
2(Y395F), respectively. These were injected at 20 ng/ml with
50 ng/ml of the co-injection marker pL15EK (Moresco and
Koelle 2004) into MT8189 animals. For overexpression of C.
elegans TRPV genes, a genomic region for each was amplified
(GeneAmp XL, Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA), contain-
ing coding regions along with 59 and 39 regulatory regions
extending to the neighboring genes. These were injected at
50 ng/ml with 10 ng/ml of myo-2Tgfp (co-injection marker)
into vs29 animals.
fusion constructs were made on the basis of the method of
Hobert (2002) as follows: 59 and 39 regulatory regions
(extending to the neighboring genes) were amplified and
fused byoverlapextension PCR tothegfp geneamplified from
pPD95.69. These were injected at 20 ng/ml along with the
coinjection marker pL15EK (50 ng/ml) into MT8189 animals.
We alsomadereporter constructs analogous tothose ofTobin
et al. (2002) lacking the 39 untranslated region (UTR) of ocr-2:
the 59 regulatory region or the 59 regulatory region plus the
coding region through the third exon was fused to gfp coding
sequences in pPD95.69 to make transcriptional (pAJ12) or
translational (pAJ11) reporters, respectively. These GFP con-
structs were coinjected with pL15EK (50 ng/ml) into MT8189
animals. Injection of pAJ11 and pAJ12 at 200 ng/ml labeled
the same cells as the PCR fusion products, but uv1 and a
number of other cells were much more strongly labeled by the
PCR fusion products injected at 20 ng/ml, apparently because
the PCR fusion products contained the ocr-2 39 UTR lacking in
pAJ11 and pAJ12.
The coding sequences of ocr-2 rescuing construct iii
(in supplemental Figure S1 at http:/ /www.genetics.org/
supplemental/) were replaced with coding sequences for the
S1 subunit of pertussis toxin PTx to inactivate Gaoor with the
release. A total of 10 ng/ml of toxin construct and 10 ng/ml
of pAJ12 (co-injection marker) was injected into wild-type
animals. Our TTx cDNA had a polymorphism that changes
94 A. M. Jose et al.
Ile 361 to Val. Although this change is not expected to make
the toxin inactive, a reduction in its efficiency cannot be ruled
out. A transgene (pMK376) expressing functional GOA-
1TGFP was made based on the work of Hughes et al. (2001)
by inserting gfp coding sequences into goa-1 genomic DNA
such that GFP was inserted into an internal loop of the G
protein. Specifically, the sequences coding a flexible linker
(SGGGGS), full-length GFP, and another linker (SGGGTS)
were placed between goa-1 codons for T117and E118. pMK376
was injected at 5 ng/ml with 50 ng/ml pL15EK (co-injection
marker) into LX491 animals.
Sequence analysis: Multiplesequencealignmentsofhuman
and C. elegans TRPVs were performed using Clustal W and
Megalign (Lasergene). The accession numbers of the sequen-
REFSEQ: NP_501380; OCR-3, REFSEQ: NP_510520; OCR-
4, REFSEQ: NP_501172; OSM-9, REFSEQ: NP_500372;
TRPV1, REFSEQ: NP_542437; TRPV2, REFSEQ: NP_057197;
TRPV5, REFSEQ: NP_062815; TRPV6, REFSEQ: NP_061116.
Imaging: Confocal fluorescence images were obtained us-
ing an LSM-510 confocal microscope (Zeiss). We imaged two
worms that expressed the co-injection marker from each of
five independent transgenic lines expressing either OCR-2T
GFP or OCR-2(Y395F)TGFP (a total of 10 worms/transgene).
each animal was measured (ImageJ).
Mosaic analysis: The OCR-2TGFP construct (20 ng/ml) was
injected along with the co-injection marker pL15EK (50 ng/
ml) into ocr-2(vs29); lin-15(n765ts) animals to obtain a mosaic
transgenic line. To determine the cells in which OCR-2 func-
tions to control egg-laying behavior, rescue of the egg-laying
defect in ocr-2(vs29) was correlated with OCR-2TGFP expres-
sion (Figure 5). We counted the numberof eggs in the uteri of
hr at 20?. Presence or absence of OCR-2TGFP expression in
head neurons (AWA, ASH, ADL, ADF, and two unidentified
was scored as having OCR-2TGFP expression in that group.
More than 150 animals were screened for gfp expression to
obtain 10 animals to age at 20? for each mosaic pattern.
A mutation in the TRPV subunit OCR-2 causes
premature egg-laying behavior: Several neurotransmit-
et al. 2003; Moresco and Koelle 2004; Alkema et al.
2005). To identify molecules involved in such neuro-
transmission, we screened for mutants that exhibit
we present the analysis of one mutant, vs29, isolated in
The uterus of a wild-type animal on average accumu-
lates 15 eggs due to a delay betweenegg production and
egg laying (Figure1A).Incontrast,vs29 mutant animals
on average accumulate only 7 eggs (Figure 1B). We
found that wild-type adults assayed shortly after the
larval-to-adult transition had made ?8 eggs/worm, but
retained all these eggsin the uterus, indicating that egg-
laying behavior had not yet begun (Figure 1C). vs29
also had made 8 eggs/worm, but had already laid 4 of
them (Figure 1C), indicating that egg-laying behavior
had begun too early in vs29 animals. Thus wild-type
animals inhibit egg laying until the uterus fills, while
vs29 animals lay eggs before the uterus fills and thus fail
to accumulate a normal number of eggs.
Fertilized C. elegans embryos (eggs) develop indepen-
dently of whether they are retained in the uterus or laid.
Since there is a delay between egg production and egg
laying, the eggs of wild-type animals develop in the
uterus such that all but 4% have progressed beyond the
eight-cell stage by the time they are laid (Figure 1D).
However, the eggs of vs29 animals are laid prematurely
such that 85% are at the eight-cell stage or earlier when
they are laid (Figure 1D). Thus, quantifying the per-
centage of early stage eggs laid provides a sensitive
measure of premature egg-laying behavior.
We mapped the vs29 mutation to an 80-kb region on
chromosome IV (supplemental Figure S1A at http:/ /
www.genetics.org/supplemental/). A multicopy trans-
gene containing only the wild-type TRPV subunit gene
ocr-2 from this region was able to rescue the premature
egg-laying defect of vs29 mutants (supplemental Figure
S1B at http:/ /www.genetics.org/supplemental/). OCR-
2, like all TRPV subunits, contains three ankyrin repeats
in its intracellular N terminus, followed by six trans-
membrane domains (Figure 1E; Tobin et al. 2002).
Sequencing the coding regions of the ocr-2 gene in vs29
revealed a point mutation that changes Tyr 395 to Phe.
This Tyr residue lies in a region conserved in all TRPV
subunits just N-terminal to the first transmembrane
not been studied. The Tyr residue mutated in vs29 is
conserved in most human and C. elegans TRPV subunits
A dominant-negative activity has recently been dem-
onstrated for a minor splice variant of murine TRPV1
that lacks 10 amino acids (thick horizontal solid line,
Figure 1F), including the tyrosine corresponding to
Y395 of OCR-2. Coexpression of this minor splice
variant (TRPV1b) with the major TRPV1 isoform
(TRPV1a) in Xenopus oocytes strongly suppressed
capsaicin-evoked currents that were seen when the
major isoform was expressed alone (Wang et al. 2004).
Further, TRPV1b was unstable and functioned as a
dominant negative by heteromerizing with TRPV1a
and destabilizing as well as inactivating the heteromer.
These results suggest that OCR-2(Y395F) may function
as a dominant negative by a similar mechanism.
OCR-2(Y395F) is an unstable protein that causes
sensory defects seen in ocr-2 null mutants and an addi-
tional dominant premature egg-laying defect: To test
the hypothesis that OCR-2(Y395F) is an unstable pro-
tein that acts as a dominant-negative subunit by inacti-
vating heteromers, we expressed both Y395F mutant
andwild-type OCR-2subunits inXenopusoocytes.How-
ever, we failed to obtain current with wild-type OCR-2
Mixed Heteromeric TRPV Channels 95
using several stimuli known to open other TRPV
channels (J. Chang, L. Heginbotham, A. M. Jose and
M. R. Koelle, unpublished results), as had been seen
previously by (Tobin et al. 2002), even upon coexpres-
sion of OSM-9, a subunit that functions with OCR-2 in
sensory neurons. Thus, OCR-2 may require an as-yet-
unknown gating stimulus or other components not
present in Xenopus oocytes. We therefore examined
To test if OCR-2(Y395F) is an unstable protein in vivo,
we generated transgenic animals expressing fusions of
full-length OCR-2 or OCR-2(Y395F) to GFP (Figure 2,
A and B). The transgene expressing OCR-2TGFP res-
cued the egg-laying defect seen in ocr-2(vs29) animals
[transgenic animals had 16 6 3 eggs held in utero vs. 7 6
0.6 eggs in nontransgenic ocr-2(vs29) animals]. We
examined five independent transgenic strains express-
proteins in tail sensory neurons, which had previously
been shown to localize OCR-2TGFP to the cell body
and to sensory cilia (Tobinet al. 2002). Consistent with
sensory neurons compared to OCR-2TGFP (12.1 6 8.1
vs. 46.3 6 8.2 fluorescence units/cell, P , 0.0002).
OCR-2TGFP was found in both the cell body and the
sensory cilia, but OCR-2(Y395F) could be detected only
in cell bodies.
To assess the function of OCR-2(Y395F) in vivo, we
compared the behavioral defects in ocr-2(vs29) animals
and ocr-2 null mutant animals. The ocr-2 null mutants
have defects in multiple sensory behaviors, but have no
egg-laying defects (Tobin et al. 2002). In an assay of
mechanosensation, most wild-type animals reverse in
response to nose touch, but both ocr-2 null mutants and
of osmosensation, most wild-type animals moved away
from a drop of high osmolarity solution, but both ocr-2
from the drop (Table 1). Thus sensory defects of ocr-2
null mutants were also present in ocr-2(vs29) animals. In
contrast to the similarity of their sensory defects, ocr-
2(vs29) animals were distinct from ocr-2 null mutants in
their egg-laying behavior. While ocr-2(vs29) animals
showed premature egg-laying behavior (laid 85% early
stage eggs), ocr-2 null mutants, like wild-type animals,
laid very few early stage eggs (Table 1). The fact that
Figure 1.—A missense mutation in the TRPV subunit OCR-2 causes eggs to be laid before the uterus is full. (A and B) vs29
animals accumulate fewer eggs than do wild-type animals. Representative wild-type (A) and vs29 (B) animals are shown. The av-
erage number of eggs accumulated by each strain, the vulva (asterisk), and eggs (arrowheads) are indicated. (C) vs29 animals
begin to lay eggs earlier than do wild-type animals. Animals isolated at the late L4 stage were aged 11.5 hr. The total eggs produced
during this time, the number laid, and the number retained in the uterus (unlaid) were counted. Averages for 10 animals/ge-
notype are shown. Error bars indicate a 95% confidence interval of the mean. A 0 on the x-axis indicates that no laid eggs were seen
for the wild type. (D) vs29 animals lay premature eggs. The developmental stages of freshly laid eggs (100/genotype) were de-
termined. The percentage of eggs not yet developed beyond the eight-cell stage (early stage eggs) is indicated. Error bars indicate
95% confidence intervals. (E) TRPV channel subunit schematic. Functional channels are tetramers of such subunits. Ankyrin
repeats (ovals), conserved region containing the vs29 mutation (open rectangle), transmembrane domains (solid rectangles),
and pore (P)-loop are indicated. (F) vs29 mutation is in a region conserved in C. elegans and human TRPVs. Multiple sequence
alignment of this region from C. elegans TRPV subunits (OCR-1–OCR-4 and OSM-9) and from human TRPV1–TRPV6. Amino acid
residues identical in more than six or in five to six subunits are solid or shaded, respectively. The sequence change in vs29 is
indicated and lies within a region (horizontal solid line) that is missing in the murine dominant-negative subunit TRPV1b (Wang
et al. 2004).
96 A. M. Jose et al.
ocr-2(vs29) animals have a premature egg-laying defect
not seen in the ocr-2 null mutant suggests that OCR-
2(Y395F) does not simply lack all function, but rather
actively causes the premature egg-laying defect.
To test if OCR-2(Y395F) acts dominantly to cause the
egg-laying defect, we transgenically overexpressed wild-
type OCR-2 or OCR-2(Y395F) in wild-type animals
(Figure 2C). Whereas the wild-type protein had little
laying defect. Since some mechanosensitive channels
(Chalfie and Wolinsky 1990) and TRP channels
(Yoonet al. 2000) can be mutated to generate constitu-
tively open channels that cause neurodegeneration, the
observed effect of OCR-2(Y395F) may be caused by
degeneration of cells required to control egg laying. We
examined the morphology of cells that express OCR-2
by differential interference and fluorescence micros-
copy after labeling all of these cells with GFP or after
labeling a subset with the vital dye DiO (data not
shown). We saw no defects in these cells, indicating
that no degeneration had occurred. To further in-
vestigate how the vs29 mutation affected ocr-2 function,
we looked at the effects of varying the number of vs29
mutant and wild-type copies of the ocr-2 gene. We found
that reducing the number of copies of vs29 from two to
one reduced the severity of premature egg laying
(compare vs29/vs29 vs. vs29/ak47, Figure 2D), further
demonstrating that vs29 actively causes premature egg
laying in a dosage-dependent manner. Furthermore,
one copy of wild-type ocr-2 significantly suppressed the
defect caused by one copy of vs29 (compare vs29/ak47
vs. vs29/1, Figure 2D). This suggests that wild-type
OCR-2 subunits compete with the OCR-2(Y395F) sub-
units produced by ocr-2(vs29) to prevent the mutant
subunits from causing premature egg laying. The fact
that a single wild-type copy of ocr-2 outcompetes the
dominant-negative ocr-2(vs29) to cause recessive inher-
itance (compare vs29/1 vs. 1/1, Figure 2D) may be
due to the fact that the vs29 mutation produces an
The above results show that OCR-2(Y395F) lacks
normal OCR-2 function, but actively causes premature
egg laying in a dosage-dependent manner, and that this
active function can be suppressed by wild-type OCR-2.
Since TRP subunits form homo- and heterotetramers
(Xu et al. 2000; Kedei et al. 2001; Tobin et al. 2002;
Hoenderop et al. 2003b; Strubing et al. 2003; Chuba-
nov et al. 2004; Gong et al. 2004), one model consistent
with all our results is that incorporation of a OCR-
2(Y395F) subunit makes a TRP tetramer nonfunctional
subunits allows functional tetramers that exclude Y395F
subunits to form. Using this model, the premature egg
laying of the vs29 mutant can be explained if the OCR-
2(Y395F) subunit, in addition to producing nonfunc-
tional OCR-2 homomers, also incorporates into and
makes nonfunctional tetramers containing other TRP
subunits that regulate egg laying.
Multiple TRP subunits, including OCR-1, OCR-2,
and OCR-4, control egg-laying behavior together: For
an in vivo test of our model that OCR-2(Y395F) makes
TRP heterotetramers nonfunctional, we reasoned that
subunit whose effects are suppressed by wild-type OCR-2. (A
and B) Expression of OCR-2TGFP and OCR-2(Y395F)TGFP.
Fluorescence images showing expression of full-length OCR-
2TGFP (A) and full-length OCR-2(Y395F)TGFP (B) in cell
bodies (brackets) and cilia (arrowheads) of sensory neurons
in the tail. OCR-2(Y395F)TGFP is an unstable protein. Bars,
30 mm. (C) OCR-2(Y395F) dominantly causes premature
egg-laying behavior. Wild-type OCR-2 or OCR-2(Y395F) was
transgenically overexpressed under the control of the ocr-2
promoter and the 39 regulatory region in a wild-type back-
ground. (D) Effect of varying dosage of ocr-2 alleles on egg lay-
ing. Animals carrying various combinations of ocr-2 alleles
were assayed for premature egg laying. 1, ak47, and vs29 de-
note wild-type, null, and vs29 alleles of ocr-2, respectively.
Brackets with asterisks indicate significant differences (P ,
0.05). Each strain analyzed was heterozygous for the marker
mutation dpy-20(1282ts), which was necessary to verify some
genotypes and was included in all others for consistency.
ocr-2(vs29) animals are like ocr-2(ak47) mutants in sensory
behaviors but not in egg-laying behavior
% response to:
GenotypeNose touch Fructose% early stage eggs
90 6 6.1
22 6 8.1
24 6 8.3
88 6 6.0
10 6 6.1
24 6 8.3
4 6 4.5
3 6 4.1
85 6 7.1
Both ocr-2 null mutants [ocr-2(ak47)] and ocr-2(vs29) animals
were defective in mechanosensation (response to nose touch)
and in osmosensation (response to fructose). However, in
contrast to ocr-2 null mutants, ocr-2(vs29) animals additionally
laid a high percentage of early stage eggs. Errors indicate 95%
Mixed Heteromeric TRPV Channels 97
overexpressing any TRP subunit that heteromerizes
with OCR-2 should sequester Y395F subunits, allow for-
mation of functional tetramers, and thus suppress the
premature egg-laying defect of the ocr-2(vs29) mutant.
Accordingly, we transformed the ocr-2(vs29) mutant
with genomic DNA for each C. elegans TRPV gene (ocr-1,
-2, -3, -4, or osm-9) to generate high-copy transgenes that
overexpressed individual subunits. We found that over-
expression of wild-type OCR-1, -2, or -4 significantly
suppressed the premature egg-laying defect of ocr-
2(vs29) animals (Figure 3A), while OCR-3 and OSM-9
-4 subunits can heteromerize with and sequester OCR-
Since our model hypothesizes that OCR-2(Y395F)
causes premature egg laying by incorporating into
them nonfunctional, it predicts that knocking out the
ocr-1, ocr-2, and ocr-4 genes together should also cause
premature egg laying. We obtained the previously
characterized ocr-1 and ocr-2 null mutants (Tobin et al.
2002) and isolated an ocr-4 deletion expected to be a
null mutation as it results in a protein product lacking
showed significant premature egg laying (Figure 3C).
We then generated every double- and triple-mutant
contrast to the single mutants, all double-mutant com-
binations, as well as the triple mutant, showed signifi-
cant premature egg-laying behavior (Figure 3C). Since
nosingle knockout shows a defect, but any combination
of the knockouts does, these channel subunits act
partially redundantly. We conclude that OCR-1, -2, and
-4 can all heteromerize with OCR-2(Y395F) and that
OCR-1, -2, and -4 likely assemble into a mixture of
homo- and heterotetramers that function together to
prevent premature egg laying. If any one ofthesubunits
is absent, the remaining subunits can form channels
that provide function.
We note that the premature egg-laying defect of the
icantly weaker than that of the ocr-2(vs29) single mutant
(85 6 7% early stage eggs laid). This suggests that OCR-
2(Y395F) has an effect beyond inactivating the TRPV
subunits OCR-1, -2, and -4. There could be additional
TRP subunits that function with OCR-1, -2, and -4 in
egg laying. There are 12 additional TRP subunits in C.
elegans beyond the TRPV subfamily (Montell 2005)
that could play a role, since TRP subunit interactions
can occur between members of different subfamilies
(Tsiokaset al. 1999).
Taken together, our results suggest that OCR-1, OCR-
2, and OCR-4 function as partially redundant mixed
heteromers to regulate egg-laying behavior. OCR-
2(Y395F) likely inactivates these as well as heteromers
containing other as-yet-unidentified TRP subunits.
All three TRPV subunits controlling egg-laying
behavior are coexpressed only in a set of uterus-
associated endocrine cells: A requirement of the above
model is that the OCR-1, -2, and -4 subunits are coex-
pressed in cell(s) that regulate egg laying. To examine
theexpression pattern ofthesethreeTRPVsubunits, we
made GFP reporter transgenes. GFP reporters for these
genes have been described previously (Colbert et al.
1997; Tobin et al. 2002), but showed no expression in
cells known to control egg laying. We constructed
Figure 3.—OCR-2(Y395F) likely inactivates OCR-1, -2, and
-4 to cause premature egg laying. (A) Overexpression of ocr-1,
ocr-2, or ocr-4 can suppress the premature egg-laying defect
of ocr-2(vs29) animals. Genomic DNAs for the C. elegans
TRPV genes (ocr-1, -2, -3, -4, or osm-9) were transformed into
ocr-2(vs29) animals as multicopy transgenes to overexpress in-
dividual TRPV subunits. Asterisks denote significant sup-
pression (P , 0.05) compared to ocr-2(vs29) animals lacking
transgenes. wt, wild type. (B) Schematic of the ocr-4 deletion
mutation: ocr-4 exons (open boxes) and introns (lines con-
necting boxes), sequence-coding ankyrin repeats (shaded)
and transmembrane domains (solid), and the extent of the
deletion (vs137) are indicated. (C) OCR-1, -2, and -4 function
partially redundantly to prevent premature egg laying. Aster-
isks denote significant defects (P , 0.05) compared to the
wild-type control (leftmost bar). No single mutant showed a
significant defect, but double and triple knockouts all showed
98A. M. Jose et al.
reportersthat included additionalregulatorysequences
that did reveal such expression. We found OCR-2 re-
porter expression in sensory neurons, as had been seen
by Tobin et al. (2002). These sensory neurons have
no known role in egg laying. In addition, our OCR-2
reporter was expressed in cells of the egg-laying sys-
tem (Figure 4A and supplemental Table S1 at http:/ /
www.genetics.org/supplemental/).Thesewere the four
uterus-associated uv1 cells attached to the ventral sur-
face of the uterus, as well as the syncytial uv1-associated
cell utse. In adults, OCR-2 reporter expression was
much stronger in uv1 than in utse (Figure 4A, bottom
right); in larval animals, it was the reverse (data not
Eggs are laid by passing from the uterus, where they
are stored, through a ring formed by the utse, then
through another ring formed by the four uv1 cells, and
finally through the vulva (Newman and Sternberg
1996). The uv1 cells contain the neurotransmitter tyra-
2005). They also contain the proteins synaptotagmin
(Nonet et al. 1993), syntaxin (Saifee et al. 1998), and
UNC-13 (J. Moresco, A. M. Jose, and M. R. Koelle,
unpublished observations) that function in neurotrans-
mitter release. As the uv1 cells do not make synapses
(White et al. 1986), they appear to be endocrine cells
that secrete tyramine and other neurotransmitters to
inhibit egg laying.
The reporter construct for OCR-4 was expressed in
adult uv1 cells (Figure 4B). In larvae, it was expressed in
the precursor of the uv1 and utse, called VU, and its
sister cell DU (Kimble and Hirsh 1979; Newman
et al. 1996). One of the descendants of DU, uv3, retains
detectable reporter expression in the adult (Figure 4B,
bottom right). Our OCR-4 reporter was also expressed
in the mechanosensory OLQ neurons (Kaplan and
Horvitz 1993), previously shown to express a GFP re-
reporter was not expressed in OLQ neurons, the only
site of overlap between expression of the OCR-2 and
OCR-4 reporters was the uv1 endocrine cells (Figure 4;
supplemental Table S1 at http:/ /www.genetics.org/
The OCR-1 reporter was expressed in the head in
AWA and ADL sensory neurons that also express the
OCR-2 reporter, as had been seen by Tobinet al.(2002).
Additionally, we saw expression in other neurons and in
a few non-neuronal cells (Figure 4C; supplemental
Table S1 at http:/ /www.genetics.org/supplemental/).
Significantly, we detected faint and occasional expres-
sion at the position of the uv1 cells (Figure 4C, bottom
Figure 4.—TRPV subunits that control egg-laying behavior
are coexpressed only in uv1, the uterus-associated endocrine
cells. (A–C) Expression patterns of GFP reporter constructs
for TRPV subunits that control egg-laying behavior. Overlays
of fluorescence and bright-field images of animals carrying
GFP reporter transgenes for OCR-2 (A), OCR-4 (B), and
OCR-1 (C). Bars, 30 mm. Fluorescent utse, uv1, and uv3 cells
are labeled. Other cell bodies (brackets) and the vulva (*) are
also indicated. Bottom right of A and B show expression in
the two left uv1 cells, although the two right uv1 cells also ex-
pressed the reporter. For clarity, these and all subsequent con-
focal images of uv1 show only the left side.
Mixed Heteromeric TRPV Channels99
middle), although a definitive identification of the
fluorescing cells was not possible due to the faintness
of the signal.
The uterus-associated uv1 endocrine cells appear to
be the only sites of coexpression of the OCR-1, -2, and -4
reporters. Further, the uv1 cells are also the only cells
expressing any TRPV reporter that have been hypothe-
sized to have a role in egg laying (Alkema et al. 2005).
OCR-2 functions in the uterus-associated endocrine
cells to control egg laying: To determine the cell(s) in
which OCR-2 functions to control egg laying, we per-
2(vs29) animals with an extrachromosomal transgene
control of the ocr-2 promoter and 39 regulatory regions.
The transgene is lost in a mosaic manner during C.
elegans development, and the pattern of mosaicism
in individual animals was determined by scoring for
the presence of GFP fluorescence in individual cells.
We found that animals expressing OCR-2TGFP in the
uv1/utse cells were rescued for the premature egg-
laying defectcaused by ocr-2(vs29), while mosaic animals
lacking expression in the uv1/utse cells but retaining
expression in other cells were not rescued (Figure 5B).
In contrast, presence of the transgene in other cells did
not correlate with rescue of the ocr-2(vs29) premature
egg-laying defect (Figure 5B). Thus OCR-2 appears to
function exclusively in the uv1/utse cells to control egg
laying. Our mosaic analysis for ocr-2, along with expres-
sion patterns described above, leads us to conclude
that the uv1 and associated utse cells are the site of
coexpression of OCR-1, -2, and -4 where these TRPV
subunits form heteromeric channels that regulate egg-
Only a subset of TRPV channels in the uv1
endocrine cells function to control egg-laying behavior:
Although overexpression of OSM-9 failed to suppress
the egg-laying defect of ocr-2(vs29), osm-9 was expressed
in all cells that express ocr-2, including the uv1 and utse
cells of the egg-laying system (Figure 6A; supplemental
Table S1 at http:/ /www.genetics.org/supplemental/).
This is particularly surprising since OSM-9 and OCR-2
form obligate heteromers in sensory neurons, where
they require each other for their mutual subcellular
localization and function (Tobinet al. 2002). Since it is
possible that the failure of OSM-9 to suppress the egg-
laying defect of ocr-2(vs29) could be due to insufficient
levels of osm-9 overexpression, we further examined the
role of osm-9 in egg laying. We found that an osm-9
knockout caused no effect on premature egg laying,
either alone or in combination with ocr-1, -2, and -4
mutations (Figure 6B). Taken together, our results
suggest that although OSM-9 and OCR-2 function as
obligate heteromers in sensory neurons, this heteromer
either does not form or does not function in the uv1
endocrine cells to control egg laying.
uv1 endocrine cells are mechanically deformed by
eggs and require neurotransmitter release as well as the
G-protein Gaoto prevent premature egg laying: We
examined the uv1 cells to investigate how they might
regulate egg laying. We used a GFP reporter that is
expressed in uv1, utse, and some surrounding cells to
visualize the anatomy of these cells in living animals
(Figure 7, A and B). The appearance of the uv1 cells
varied from animal to animal and from time to time
of eggs in the uterus that mechanically deformed the
reconstructions of confocal fluorescence images, which
show that each uv1cellwas deformed iftherewas anegg
in the underlying uterus, forcing the uv1 cell body to
Figure 5.—OCR-2 functions in the uv1 and utse cells to
control egg-laying behavior. (A) Schematic showing the lineal
origins of cells that express OCR-2. The AB.a-derived neurons
are ADLL, ADLR, ADFL, and ADFR (fourhead neurons). The
AB.p-derived neurons are AWAL, AWAR, ASHL, and ASHR
(four head neurons); PHAL, PHAR, PHBL, and PHBR (four
tail neurons); and PVDL and PVDR (PVDs). Two additional
unidentified head neurons that express OCR-2 are not shown,
but are likely AB derived, since AB is the precursor of the vast
majority of neurons. The lineal separation of uv1 and utse
from all other OCR-2-expressing cells makes it convenient
to isolate genetic mosaics to assess the function of OCR-2
in uv1 and utse. (B) OCR-2TGFP expression in the uv1
and utse cells is necessary and sufficient to rescue the ocr-
2(vs29) egg-laying defect. ocr-2(vs29) animals transformed with
an extrachromosomal transgene that expresses full-length
OCR-2 fused to GFP (OCR-2TGFP) under the control of
the ocr-2 promoter and the 39 regulatory regions were scored
for the presence of GFP fluorescence in individual cells and
for the number of eggs held in utero. During development, the
extrachromosomal transgene is lost in a mosaic manner, re-
sulting in the expression of OCR-2TGFP (as evidenced by
GFP fluorescence) in all, none, or a subset of the cells that
express OCR-2. Only animals that expressed OCR-2TGFP
in the uv1 and utse cells held a normal number of eggs in utero
(16 6 4 in animals with expression only in uv1 and utse cells
vs. 15 6 0.6 eggs in wild-type animals). Ten animals were
scored for each mosaic pattern of OCR-2TGFP expression. Er-
rors indicate standard deviation.
100 A. M. Jose et al.
curve and follow the contour of the egg (supplemental
Figure S2 at http:/ /www.genetics.org/supplemental/).
Thus uv1 cells have the potential to mechanically sense
the presence of eggs in the uterus.
How might the uv1 endocrine cells control egg
laying? While laser ablation is often used to assess cell
function in C. elegans, the uv1 cells appear to be a
structural component of the anatomy required for egg
laying, and killing these cells is thus not a suitable
method for assessing their role in regulating egg-laying
behavior. So, we used a toxin to interfere with uv1 cell
function and measured effects on egg laying. We used
the ocr-2 promoter and 39 regulatory region to express
the light chain of tetanus toxin, a protease that cleaves
synaptobrevin and prevents neurotransmitter release
from neurons(Sweeneyet al.1995) and endocrine cells
(Nemoz-Gaillard et al. 1998). The resulting transgenic
animals exhibited premature egg-laying behavior (Fig-
ure 7C), suggesting that neurotransmitters released
from uv1 or other cells that express ocr-2 inhibit egg
laying. The neurotransmitter tyramine is synthesized in
the uv1 (but in no other cells that express ocr-2) and
inhibits egg-laying behavior (Alkema et al. 2005).
Although null mutants of the biosynthetic enzyme that
produces tyramine (TDC-1) have a strong premature
egg-laying defect (Alkema et al. 2005), this defect is
weaker than that of ocr-2(vs29) animals (Figure 7D),
suggesting that uv1 cells release other neurotransmit-
ters in addition to tyramine to inhibit egg laying. The
uv1 cells also express the neuropeptide genes flp-11 and
flp-22 (Kim and Li 2004), and these may play a role in
egg-laying behavior. Thus, our results suggest that
tyramine and other neurotransmitters released by the
uv1 cells prevent premature egg laying and that in ocr-
2(vs29) mutant animals this release is blocked. Neuro-
transmitter release can be triggered by Ca21entry
and Nowycky 2002). Thus C. elegans TRPV channel
Figure 7.—uv1 cells release neurotransmitters and require
the G-protein GOA-1 to inhibit egg laying until the uv1 cells
are mechanically deformed. (A and B) uv1 cells are deformed
by eggs in the uterus. The uv1 cells, utse, and the vulva (*) are
indicated. (A) A full-length GOA-1TGFP fluorescent reporter
is expressed strongly in uv1, weakly in utse, and in nearby
cells, allowing visualization of anatomy in living animals. This
projection of a three-dimensional confocal image is shown in
various rotations in supplemental Figure S2 at http:/ /www.
image shown in A and a corresponding bright-field image
showing the uv1 cells, utse, and eggs in the uterus. (C) Block-
ing neurotransmission in ocr-2-expressing cells causes prema-
ture egg laying. The ocr-2 promoter and the 39 regulatory
region were used either to express the light chain of tetanus
toxin (TTx) to block neurotransmission or to express control
GFP. Error bars indicate 95% confidence intervals, and aster-
isks denote significant differences (P , 0.05) in C–E. (D) ocr-
2(vs29) animals have a more severe premature egg-laying
defect than do animals lacking TDC-1, the biosynthetic en-
zyme for tyramine. (E) Inactivating the G-protein GOA-1 in
ocr-2-expressing cells causes premature egg laying. The ocr-2
promoter and the 39 regulatory region were used either to ex-
press the S1 subunit of pertussis toxin (PTx) to inactivate
GOA-1 or to express control GFP (data replotted from C).
Figure 6.—OSM-9 is expressed in the uv1 cells but has no
detectable effect on egg-laying behavior. (A) Overlay of fluo-
rescence and bright-field image of an animal carrying a GFP
reporter transgene for OSM-9. Bar, 30 mm. (B) osm-9 null mu-
tations do not have any detectable effects on egg-laying behav-
ior. Comparisons (brackets) of double- and triple-mutant
combinations of the osm-9 null mutation with null mutations
in other C. elegans TRPV subunits or with ocr-2(vs29) show no
effect of OSM-9 on egg-laying behavior. Error bars indicate
95% confidence intervals.
Mixed Heteromeric TRPV Channels101
activity might similarly promote release of neurotrans-
mitters that inhibit egg laying.
What might gate TRPV activity in the uv1 cells? Since
TRPV channels are known to mediate mechanosensa-
tion (O’Neil and Heller 2005), the mechanical de-
formation of the uv1 cells caused by eggs in the uterus
may directly inactivate TRPVs in the uv1 cells to end the
inhibition of egg laying. Alternatively, TRP channel
function can also be regulated by heterotrimeric G-
protein signaling (Montell 2005). In C. elegans, Tobin
et al. (2002) showed that sensory neurons of the head
require the TRPV channel OCR-2 and the Ga protein
ODR-3 to respond to mechanical and osmotic stimuli.
ODR-3 is expressed only in sensory neurons of the head
and thus cannot function with TRPV channels in the
ortholog GOA-1 could play such a role, since goa-1 null
mutants have a premature egg-laying defect (Mendel
et al. 1995; Se ´galat et al. 1995). To examine if GOA-1 is
expressed in the uv1 cells, we made a GOA-1 reporter
construct by inserting GFP-coding sequences in frame
into the coding region of a goa-1 genomic clone (see
materials and methods). The resulting transgene
expresses a functional GOA-1TGFP fusion protein that
(J. Tanis and M. R. Koelle, data not shown). In addi-
tion to being expressed in most neurons and in the
muscles of the egg-laying system, as seen with previous
our functional reporter also showed expression in the
uv1 and utse cells (Figure 7A). To test if GOA-1 inhibits
egg laying by functioning in the cells that express ocr-2,
we inactivated GOA-1 specifically in these cells. To do
to express the S1 subunit of pertussis toxin, a potent
inactivator of GOA-1 that, when expressed in all tissues,
results in animals that are indistinguishable from goa-1
null mutants (Darby and Falkow 2001). The resulting
transgenic animals showed a strong premature egg-
perhaps their associated utse cell, GOA-1 appears to
function along with TRPV channels in uv1/utse cells to
inhibit egg laying.
GOA-1 was previously suggested to act in the HSN
motor neurons to inhibit release of neurotransmitters
that stimulate egg laying, thus inhibiting egg laying
(Mendel et al. 1995; Se ´galat et al. 1995; Shyn et al.
2003; Moresco and Koelle 2004). However, this work
of the HSNs where GOA-1 also acts to inhibit egg laying
(Se ´galat et al. 1995; Shyn et al. 2003). Our work now
identifies such an additional site of action as the uv1
neuroendocrinecells. Curiously,GOA-1acts inboth the
HSNs and uv1s to inhibit egg laying, but does so in one
case (HSNs) by inhibiting neurotransmitter release and
in the other (uv1s) by promoting neurotransmitter
release. Further work is needed to understand this
difference and to explore the possibility that neuro-
transmitters released from the HSNs might affect egg
laying by acting on the uv1s, or vice versa.
On the basis of all our results, we propose a model in
which mechanical deformation of the uv1 cells by eggs
in the uterus inactivates a set of partially redundant
TRPV subunits (including OCR-2, OCR-4, and OCR-1)
that form functional channels as mixed tetramers
(Figure 8). When the uterus is not full, these cation
the release of tyramine and other neurotransmitters to
inhibit egg laying. The Gaoprotein GOA-1 may activate
the TRPV channels, as inactivating GOA-1 in TRPV-
expressing cells had the same effect as inactivation of
TRPV channels. Alternatively, GOA-1 may act in parallel
or downstream of TRP channel activation to inhibit egg
laying. In summary, inactivation of TRPV channels
and/or the G-protein GOA-1, apparently in response
to deformed uv1 endocrine cells, stops the release of
neurotransmitters that inhibit egg laying, explaining
Figure 8.—Model for inhibition of egg laying until the
uterus is filled with eggs. uv1 neurosecretory cells release ty-
ramine and other neurotransmitters to inhibit egg-laying be-
havior until they are mechanically deformed by eggs in
the uterus, and both heteromeric TRPV channels and the
G-protein Gao are required in uv1 cells for this release.
The relationship among mechanical deformation of uv1,
TRPVactivity, and Gaoactivity remains undetermined, leaving
several possibilities consistent with the data. uv1 deformation
could directly mechanically gate TRPV channels (arrow 1), af-
fect Gaovia a G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR, arrow 2), or
activation of both TRPV channels and Gaocould be required
in parallel. If mechanical deformation acts via the G protein,
Gaocould activate the TRPV channels to allow entry of Ca21, a
known activator of neurotransmitter vesicle release (arrows 3
and 5). Alternatively, if the TRPV channels are directly me-
chanically gated by uv1 deformation, a model that remains
formally consistent with our analysis is that TRPV channels
activate the G protein to in turn activate neurotransmitter
release (arrows 4 and 6).
102 A. M. Jose et al.
the observation (Figure 1C) that egg laying is inhibited
until eggs fill the uterus and deform the uv1 cells.
that function is carried out by multiple TRP subunits
that can form heteromers. In three instances in which
TRP function was studied in ciliated sensory neurons,
two specific TRP subunits were required that apparently
formed obligate heteromeric complexes such that
knocking out either subunit caused a complete sensory
defect (Barr et al. 2001; Tobin et al. 2002; Gong et al.
2004). In nonciliated cells, the situation is more
complex in that there is partial redundancy between
the coexpressed TRP subunits: knocking out a single
depends on three TRPC subunits (TRP, TRPL, and
TRPg) expressed in photoreceptor neurons. Mutants of
trp show strong sensory defects (Cosens and Manning
1969), whereas little or no defects are seen in trpl knock-
outs, except in a trp knockout background (Niemeyer
et al. 1996). Finally, the contribution of trpg can be
apparently inactivates heteromers of TRPg and TRPL
subunits (Xu et al. 2000). Mechanosensation in Dro-
a TRPN subunit (NOMPC) or a TRPA subunit (Pain-
less), respectively. However, nompC and painless mutants
show only partial sensory defects, suggesting that other
TRP channel subunits may also contribute to Drosoph-
ila mechanosensation (Walker et al. 2000; Traceyet al.
2003). Finally, our studies show that at least three TRPV
subunits, OCR-1, -2, and -4, are inactivated in response
eggs in the underlying uterus. Knocking out any one
subunit caused no detectable defect in this function,
but double or triple knockouts did reveal significant
defects. Even stronger defects were seen using a
dominant-negative OCR-2 mutant, suggesting that
there are additional TRP subunits that function to-
gether with OCR-1, -2, and -4. We note that there are
at least 17 TRP subunit genes in C. elegans (Montell
2005). In summary, genetic studies of TRP subunits in
invertebrates show that full TRP channel function
outs due to functional redundancy among TRP sub-
units. The fact that strong defects can be revealed using
dominant-negative subunit mutants in cases where sin-
gle knockouts give weak or no defects further suggests
that the redundant TRP subunits actually function in
Similar redundant heteromerizing TRP subunits
likely exist in mammals, but their physiological roles
remain largely unexamined. Using heterologous pair-
wise expression of subunits or co-immunoprecipitation
from native tissues, heteromers of TRPV5/6, TRPV1/3,
TRPM6/7, TRPP2/TRPC1, and numerous TRPC sub-
unit combinations have all been shown to occur
(Tsiokas et al. 1999; Hofmann et al. 2002; Smith et al.
2002; Hoenderop et al. 2003b; Strubing et al. 2003;
Chubanov et al. 2004; Hellwig et al. 2005). Are these
heteromers actually functional in vivo? The role of
OCR-2 was best revealed in a dominant-negative ocr-2
mutant that apparently inactivates a heteromerizing set
of TRP channel subunits that function redundantly. We
suggest that expression of dominant-negative TRP
channel subunits in mammalian cells could similarly
reveal the physiological functions of mammalian TRP
We have described a dominant-negative mutation of
aPhe.Thisresidue ispresentin aN-terminaljuxtamem-
brane region conserved within the TRPV subfamily but
of unknown function. A 10-amino-acid deletion within
this same region in the TRPV1 splice form TRPV1b also
produces a dominant-negative subunit that, like OCR-
2(Y395F), is a destabilized protein that inactivates other
channel subunits (Wang et al. 2004). This suggests that
the juxtamembrane region is critical for controlling
region may generally be useful in producing dominant-
negative channel subunits.
Our work reveals that the functional association
cells. The TRPV subunits OSM-9 and OCR-2 apparently
function as obligate heteromers in sensory neurons,
since knocking out either subunit leads to both elimi-
nation of sensory function and mislocalization of the
other subunit (Tobin et al. 2002). However, we found
that OCR-2 and OSM-9, while both present in the
endocrine cells that control egg-laying behavior, do
not function together in these cells. Rather, OSM-9 has
no detectable role in egg laying, and OCR-2 apparently
functions in a mixture of heteromers with OCR-1 and -4
that function redundantly to control egg laying.
through TRP channels in endocrine cells may directly
trigger exocytosis of neurotransmitter vesicles until a
mechanical stimulus deforms these cells. Consistent
with this idea, Obukhov and Nowycky (2002) showed
that TRPC4 overexpressed in cultured neuroendocrine
cells provides sufficient Ca21to trigger exocytosis. We
note that multiple TRP subunits are expressed in
mammalian endocrine cells, but their function in these
cells remains unknown, and it is unclear if they enable
these cells to respond to sensory stimuli. For example,
TRPV1 is expressed in rat pancreatic islet cells that
secrete insulin (Akiba et al. 2004), and TRPC4 as well as
TRPC7 are coexpressed in cultured insulin-secreting
endocrine cells (Qian et al. 2002).
While it is possible that TRP channels transduce
mechanical stimuli directly, our results show that both
Mixed Heteromeric TRPV Channels103
the Ga protein GOA-1 and a set of TRPV channels are
required for function in mechanically deformed endo-
crine cells. This parallels the requirement for the Ga
protein ODR-3 and OCR-2/OSM-9 TRPV channels in
et al. 2002). In these cases, the mechanical stimulus
might be transduced by G-protein-coupled receptors
that act through Ga proteins to regulate TRPV chan-
nel activity (Figure 8). Such an arrangement underlies
mammalian taste (Zhang et al. 2003), Drosophila vi-
sion (Montell et al. 1985), and C. elegans olfaction
(Colbert et al. 1997).
We thank the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center for strains, the Yale
Center for Cell and Molecular Imaging for microscopes, H. Qin for
microscopy advice, C. Bargmannfor cDNA clones, J. Tanis for the PTx
clone, P. De Camilli for the TTx clone, and S. Jordt for critical reading
of the manuscript. This work was supported by National Institutes of
Health grant NS03918.
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Serotonin and Go
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