BACKGROUND AIMS: Transient receptor potential ankyrin (TRPA) 1, an excitatory ion channel expressed by sensory neurons, mediates somatic and visceral pain in response to direct activation or noxious mechanical stimulation. Although the intestine is routinely exposed to irritant alimentary compounds and inflammatory mediators that activate TRPA1, there is no direct evidence for functional TRPA1 receptors on enteric neurons, and the effects of TRPA1 activation on intestinal function have not been determined. We characterized expression of TRPA1 by enteric neurons and determined its involvement in the control of intestinal contractility and transit. METHODS: TRPA1 expression was characterized by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction and immunofluorescence analyses. TRPA1 function was examined by Ca(2+) imaging and by assays of contractile activity and transit. RESULTS: We detected TRPA1 messenger RNA in the mouse intestine and TRPA1 immunoreactivity in enteric neurons. The cecum and colon had immunoreactivity for neuronal TRPA1, but the duodenum did not. TRPA1 immunoreactivity was also detected in inhibitory motoneurons and descending interneurons, cholinergic neurons, and intrinsic primary afferent neurons. TRPA1 activators, including cinnamaldehyde, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), and 4-hydroxynonenal, increased [Ca(2+)](i) in myenteric neurons. These were reduced by a TRPA1 antagonist (HC-030031) or deletion of Trpa1. TRPA1 activation inhibited contractility of the segments of colon but not stomach or small intestine of Trpa1(+/+) but not Trpa1(-/-) mice; this effect was reduced by tetrodotoxin or N(G)-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester. Administration of AITC by gavage did not alter gastric emptying or small intestinal transit, but luminal AITC inhibited colonic transit via TRPA1. CONCLUSIONS: Functional TRPA1 is expressed by enteric neurons, and activation of neuronal TRPA1 inhibits spontaneous neurogenic contractions and transit of the colon.