PerspectiveCell Signaling

Putting the Squeeze on Phototransduction

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Science  12 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6104, pp. 200-201
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229909

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The study of phototransduction—the conversion of light into electrical signals—in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has presaged many advances in our understanding of cell signaling and sensory biology over the past two decades. Notably, it was in this system that the transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels were identified (13), a family that numbers in the dozens in vertebrate genomes (4). Vertebrate TRP channels, which were first reported as the transducers of sensory processes including thermosensation and pheromone detection (5, 6), have since been found to participate in nearly all areas of cellular physiology (4). For fly phototransduction, one question has remained conspicuously unanswered: How does a light stimulus lead to the opening of TRP channels? On page 260 of this issue, Hardie and Franze (7) report a surprising link between light-activated changes in membrane tension and the opening of TRP channels that may be the long-awaited answer.