Transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels have been implicated in detecting chemical, thermal, and mechanical stimuli in organisms ranging from mammals to Caenorhabditis elegans. It is well established that TRPA1 detects and mediates behavioral responses to chemical irritants. However, the role of TRPA1 in detecting thermal and mechanical stimuli is controversial. To further clarify the functions of TRPA1 channels in vertebrates, we analyzed their roles in zebrafish. The two zebrafish TRPA1 paralogs are expressed in sensory neurons and are activated by several chemical irritants in vitro. High-throughput behavioral analyses of trpa1a and trpa1b mutant larvae indicate that TRPA1b is necessary for behavioral responses to these chemical irritants. However, TRPA1 paralogs are not required for behavioral responses to temperature changes or for mechanosensory hair cell function in the inner ear or lateral line. These results support a role for zebrafish TRPA1 in chemical but not thermal or mechanical sensing, and establish a high-throughput system to identify genes and small molecules that modulate chemosensation, thermosensation, and mechanosensation.
- Hair cell