At last, it’s back to the senses! To prepare for our class discussion on Friday, please read Basic Neurochemistry chapter 52, just the taste section and the subsection “Odorant recognition initiates a second-messenger cascade leading to the depolarization of the neuron and the generation of action potentials”; the rest of the olfaction section is interesting too, but we won’t have time to discuss it.

With regards to taste, scientists recently figured out the structure of TRPA1, which goes by the name “wasabi receptor,” a protein that allows us to taste certain foods as spicy hot. Check out the WIRED article as well as the Nature News & Views article on this protein, and work through the questions below. Here’s the full research article if you’re interested: Structure of the TRPA1 ion channel suggests regulatory mechanisms

  • What’s the relationship between this protein’s structure and its function? How does it work?
  • Which of the 4 types of receptors profiled in chapter 12 is the wasabi receptor?
  • What levels of protein structure are present in a fully functioning TRPA1 protein?
  • What kind(s) of secondary structure(s) can you spot in the image of TRPA1’s structure above or in images elsewhere?

wasabi receptor, schematic

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