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Opening of capsaicin receptor TRPV1 is stabilized equally by its four subunits.


Capsaicin receptor TRPV1 is a nociceptor for vanilloid molecules, such as capsaicin and resiniferatoxin (RTX). Even though cryo-EM structures of TRPV1 in complex with these molecules are available, how their binding energetically favors the open conformation is not known. Here, we report an approach to control the number of bound RTX molecules (0-4) in functional rat TRPV1. The approach allowed direct measurements of each of the intermediate open states under equilibrium conditions at both macroscopic and single-molecule levels. We found that RTX binding to each of the four subunits contributes virtually the same activation energy, which we estimated to be 1.70 to 1.86 kcal/mol and found to arise predominately from destabilizing the closed conformation. We further showed that sequential bindings of RTX increase open probability without altering single-channel conductance, confirming that there is likely a single open-pore conformation for TRPV1 activated by RTX.

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