Transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channels are renowned for their ability to sense diverse chemical stimuli.
Still, for many members of this large and heterogeneous protein family it is unclear how their activity is regulated and whether they are influenced by endogenous substances. On the other hand, steroidal compounds are increasingly recognized to have rapid effects on membrane surface receptors that often have not been identified at the molecular level.
We show here that TRPM3, a divalent-permeable cation channel, is rapidly and reversibly activated by extracellular pregnenolone sulphate, a neuroactive steroid. We show that pregnenolone sulphate activates endogenous TRPM3 channels in insulin-producing beta cells.
Application of pregnenolone sulphate led to a rapid calcium influx and enhanced insulin secretion from pancreatic islets.
Our results establish that TRPM3 is an essential component of an ionotropic steroid receptor enabling unanticipated crosstalk between steroidal and insulin-signalling endocrine systems.