Transient receptor potential channels, of the vanilloid subtype (TRPV), act as sensory mediators, being activated by endogenous ligands, heat, mechanical and osmotic stress. Within the vasculature, TRPV channels are expressed in smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, as well as in peri-vascular nerves. Their varied distribution and polymodal activation properties make them ideally suited to a role in modulating vascular function, perceiving and responding to local environmental changes. In endothelial cells, TRPV1 is activated by endocannabinoids, TRPV3 by dietary agonists, and TRPV4 by shear stress, epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs), and downstream of Gq-coupled receptor activation. Upon activation, these channels contribute to vasodilation via nitric oxide (NO), prostacyclin (PGI2), and intermediate/small conductance potassium channel (IKCa/SKCa) dependent pathways. In smooth muscle, TRPV4 is activated by endothelial derived EETs, leading to large conductance potassium channel (BKCa) activation and smooth muscle hyperpolarization. Conversely, smooth muscle TRPV2 channels contribute to global calcium entry and may aid constriction. TRPV1 and TRPV4 are expressed in sensory nerves and can cause vasodilation through CGRP and substance P release as well as mediating vascular function via the baroreceptor reflex (TRPV1) or via increasing sympathetic outflow during osmotic stress (TRPV4). Thus, TRPV channels play important roles in the regulation of normal and pathological cellular function in the vasculature.
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