TRPV4 (Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 4) channels are activated by a wide range of stimuli, including hypotonic stress, non-noxious heat and mechanical stress and some small molecule agonists (e.g. phorbol ester 4α-PDD). GSK1016790A (GSK101) is a recently discovered specific small molecule agonist of TRPV4. Its effects on physical determinants of TRPV4 activity were evaluated in HeLa cells transiently transfected with TRPV4 (HeLa-TRPV4). GSK101 (10 nM) causes a TRPV4 specific Ca2+ influx in HeLa-TRPV4 cells, but not in control transfected cells, which can be inhibited by ruthenium red and Ca2+-free medium more significantly at the early stage of the activation rather than the late stage, reflecting apparent partial desensitization. Western blot analysis showed that GSK101 activation did not induce an increase in TRPV4 expression at the plasma membrane, but caused an immediate and sustained downregulation of TRPV4 on the plasma membrane in HeLa-TRPV4 cells. Patch clamp analysis also revealed an early partial desensitization of the channel which was Ca2+-independent. FRET analysis of TRPV4 subunit assembly demonstrated that the GSK101-induced TRPV4 channel activation/desensitization was not due to alterations in homotetrameric channel formation on the plasma membrane. It is concluded that GSK101 specifically activates TRPV4 channels, leading to a rapid partial desensitization and downregulation of the channel expression on the plasma membrane. TRPV4 subunit assembly appears to occur during trafficking from the ER/Golgi to the plasma membrane and is not altered by agonist stimulation.
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