The aim of this review is to provide a basic framework for understanding the function of mammalian transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, particularly as they have been elucidated in heterologous expression systems. Mammalian TRP channel proteins form six-transmembrane (6-TM) cation-permeable channels that may be grouped into six subfamilies on the basis of amino acid sequence homology (TRPC, TRPV, TRPM, TRPA, TRPP, and TRPML). Selected functional properties of TRP channels from each subfamily are summarized in this review. Although a single defining characteristic of TRP channel function has not yet emerged, TRP channels may be generally described as calcium-permeable cation channels with polymodal activation properties. By integrating multiple concomitant stimuli and coupling their activity to downstream cellular signal amplification via calcium permeation and membrane depolarization, TRP channels appear well adapted to function in cellular sensation. Our review of recent literature implicating TRP channels in neuronal growth cone steering suggests that TRPs may function more widely in cellular guidance and chemotaxis. The TRP channel gene family and its nomenclature, the encoded proteins and alternatively spliced variants, and the rapidly expanding pharmacology of TRP channels are summarized in online supplemental material.