TRPV1 lights up just as much if you bite into a burning hot food as it does a hot pepper. It responds to physical heat and capsaicin.
The infamous wasabi receptor, TRPV1:
TRPA1 in the lungs reduces respiration because it’s activated by poisonous gases... so you end up breathing in less of the poisonous gas. Actually, respiratory TRPA1 activation will make a sleeping mouse wake up and flee!
And yet for some reason, TRPs are anti-cancer in a wide variety of #contexts.
New insights into pharmacological tools to TR(i)P cancer up (Gautier et al., 2014)
If you’re exposed to a TRP activator and escape, cool, if not, you die (jk). Unless it’s a false assassin, in which case that smarty TRP will be downregulated.
I’m happy to have not participated in this study:
Oral irritation by mustard oil: self-desensitization and cross-desensitization with capsaicin (Simons et al., 2003)
Jab a mouse with a large enough dose of capsaicin, early enough in life, and they’re virtually permanently desensitized (Gamse et al., 1980). Under no circumstances should you do this.
TRPA1 is actually upregulated in lung cancer cells (Schaefer et al., 2013). It’s unknown why, but given the chemopreventive nature of TRPs and the ability to modulate them, might a spicy meal or 2 be prudent?
Caution: if you’re not used to spicy foods, an evening meal of them may reduce sleep quality (Edwards et al., 1992).
So in the contexts of cancer and sleep, regular consumption of spicy foods and associated TRP modulation may be a good thing.
There are a wide variety of TRP activators which will vary by, dose, timing, duration of effect, etc., my guess would be to combine a couple different activators in your spicy meals. At least one researcher said: “Desensitization did not extend across days,” although this wasn’t thoroughly investigated (Green, 1996). So 1 or 2 hits daily may suffice. I like to do this, #torched, with some vinegar or fish sauce.
However, as with so many things biology, huge individual variability in receptor desensitization (Prescott and Swain-Campbell, 2000).
Interesting, a hyperactivating polymorphism in TRPA1 induces familial episodic pain syndrome which is triggered by fasting and physical stress (Kremeyer et al., 2010). There is a protein that really really doesn’t think fasting is good for you LOL.
Actually, if you’re fasting-intolerant, do you also dislike wasabi, mustard, ginger, etc.? There are likely many different reasons for fasting-intolerance; curious how many might be due to an overactive TRPA1 polymorphism.
I wonder if this polymorphism is also associated with increased cancer risk...
A nice review: The transient receptor potential family of ion channels (Nilius and Owsianik, 2011)
I’m mostly interested in TRPA1 and TRPV1 because: 1) we have access to them (ie, they’re expressed in the mouth, GI tract, etc.); 2) ligands are relatively common foods; and 3) anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, etc.
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