TRPV4 is a mechanically activated Ca(2+)-passing channel implicated in the sensing of forces, including those acting on bones. To date, 33 mutations are known to affect human bone development to different extents. The spectrum of these skeletal dysplasias (SD) ranges from dominantly inherited mild brachylomia (BO) to neonatal lethal forms of metatropic dysplasia (MD). Complexities of the results from fluorescence and electrophysiological studies have led to questions on whether channel activity is a good predictor of disease severity. Here we report on a systematic examination of 14 TRPV4 mutant alleles covering the entire SD spectrum. Expressed in Xenopus oocyte and without any stimulation, the wild-type channel had a ~1% open probability (Po) while those of most of the lethal MD channels approached 100%. All mutant channels had higher basal open probabilities, which limited their further increase by agonist or hypotonicity. The magnitude of this limitation revealed a clear correlation between the degree of over-activity (the molecular phenotype) and the severity of the disease over the entire spectrum (the biological phenotype). Thus, while other factors are at play, our results are consistent with the increased TRPV4 basal activity being a critical determinant of the severity of skeletal dysplasia. We discuss how the channel over-activity may lead to the "gain-of-function" phenotype and speculate that the function of wild-type TRPV4 may be secondary in normal bone development but crucial in an acute process such as fracture repair in the adult.
Loukin, S., Su, Z., & Kung, C. (2011). Increased basal activity is a key determinant in the severity of human skeletal dysplasia caused by TRPV4 mutations. PLoS ONE, 6(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0019533