Animals possess systems for sensing environmental temperature using temperature-sensitive ion channels called transient receptor potential channels (TRPs). Various TRPs have been identified and characterized in mammals. However, those of ectotherms, such as reptiles, are less well studied. Here, we identify the V subfamily of TRP (TRPV) in two reptile species: Japanese grass lizard (Takydromus tachydromoides) and Japanese four-lined ratsnake (Elaphe quadrivirgata). Phylogenetic analysis of TRPVs indicated that ectothermic reptilian TRPVs are more similar to those of endothermic chicken and mammals, than to other ectotherms, such as frog and fish. Expression analysis of TRPV4 mRNA in the lizard showed that its expression in tissues and organs is specifically controlled in cold environments and hibernation. The mRNA was ubiquitously expressed in seven tissues/organs examined. Both cold-treatment and hibernation lowered TRPV4 expression, but in a tissue/organ-specific manner. Cold-treatment reduced TRPV4 expression in tongue and muscle, while in hibernation it was reduced more widely in brain, tongue, heart, lung, and muscle. Interestingly, however, levels of TRPV4 mRNA in the skin remained unaffected after entering hibernation and cold-treatment, implying that TRPV4 in the skin may act as an environmental temperature sensor throughout the reptilian life cycle, including hibernation. This is the first report, to our knowledge, to describe reptilian TRPV4 in relation to hibernation.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3