Corneal transparency is dependent on the maintenance of the structural integrity and functional activity of its epithelial and endothelial limiting layers and the stroma. Different transient receptor potential (TRP) channel subtypes are expressed in cells and on corneal sensory nerve endings. They serve as sensors and transducers of environmental stimuli that can reduce tissue transparency. These nonselective cation channels are members of a superfamily sharing TRP box protein sequence homology having 6 membrane spanning domains with a pore between the fifth and sixth segments. TRP channels are composed of 4 monomeric subunits that oligomerize in homomeric or heteromeric configurations derived from different TRP subtypes belonging to the same or any of 6 different subfamilies. TRP subfamily members identified in the cornea include those belonging to the canonical, vanilloid, ankyrin, or melastatin subfamilies. In this review, we specifically focus on the functional roles of TRPV1 and TRPA1 expression in the cornea as their activation provides adaptive nociceptive and immune responses to noxious environmental stresses such as irritating ligands, temperature fluctuations, rises in ambient osmolarity, mechanical stretch, decline in pH, and tissue injury. Our previous studies have indicated that TRPV1 and TRPA1 subtypes are potential drug targets for improving corneal wound healing after alkali burns, because injury-induced fibrosis, neovascularization, and inflammation in either TRPV1 or TRPA1 gene-silenced mice were all significantly reduced.
*Department of Ophthalmology, Wakayama Medical University, Wakayama, Japan;
†School of Ophthalmology and Optometry, Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China; and
‡Laboratory Animal Center, Wakayama Medical University, Wakayama, Japan.
Reprints: Yuka Okada, MD, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology, Wakayama Medical University, 811-1 Kimiidera, Wakayama 641-0012, Japan (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.