Transient receptor potential vanilloid member 1 (TRPV1) is a membrane protein ion channel that functions as a heat and capsaicin receptor. In addition to activation by hot temperature and vanilloid compounds such as capsaicin, TRPV1 is modulated by various stimuli including acidic pH, endogenous lipids, diverse biological and synthetic chemical ligands, and modulatory proteins. Due to its sensitivity to noxious stimuli such as high temperature and pungent chemicals, there has been significant evidence that TRPV1 participates in a variety of human physiological and pathophysiological pathways, raising the potential of TRPV1 as an attractive therapeutic target. However, the polymodal nature of TRPV1 function has complicated clinical application because the TRPV1 activation mechanisms from different modes have generally been enigmatic. Consequently, tremendous efforts have put into dissecting the mechanisms of different activation modes, but numerous questions remain to be answered.
The studies conducted in this dissertation probed the role of the S1-S4 membrane domain in temperature and ligand activation of human TRPV1. Temperature-dependent solution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for thermodynamic and mechanistic studies of the S1-S4 domain. From these results, a potential temperature sensing mechanism of TRPV1, initiated from the S1-S4 domain, was proposed. Additionally, direct binding of various ligands to the S1-S4 domain were used to ascertain the interaction site and the affinities (Kd) of various ligands to this domain. These results are the first to study the isolated S1-S4 domain of human TRPV1 and many results indicate that the S1-S4 domain is crucial for both temperature-sensing and is the general receptor binding site central to chemical activation.