1.1.12

Chemistry is Hot

16,000,000 Scovilles strong.

5 comments:

D said...

What aspects of that chemical structure make it painful?

David Stay said...

I don't know how it binds to the vanilloid (capsaicin) TRPV1
receptor but if you look at the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin#Capsaicinoids) it shows other capsasinoids, derivatives that have varying efficacy. They all share some similar chemical traits: trisubstituted aromatic ring, amide linkage, and long hydrophobic tail.

There is an interesting study of the proteins found in tarantula venom that found that one protein activates the same receptor as capsaicin but in a completely different way. Both plants and animals have developed methods to attack the same receptor to act as a deterrent to other animal.

D said...

Was there originally some adaptive function for this receptor? Like it was a warning that the food was not good for us and we should spit it out?

David Stay said...

The TRPV1 receptor can be activated just by heat (above 43 degrees Celcius) so they were temperature sensors in the mouth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRPV1

D said...

I see, that's interesting. Do people have more than other primates, I wonder? This seems like it would only be a really useful adaptation after the invention of fire.