Although many cells appear to respond to mechanical stimulation through increased conductance of ion channels in the plasma membrane, the actual channels that mediate these effects—which are important in diverse processes from hearing and touch to control of blood pressure—have remained elusive. Coste et al. used RNA interference to decrease expression of candidate genes systematically in a mouse neuroblastoma cell line and identified two genes that encode proteins, Piezo1 and Piezo2, that are required for mechanically stimulated cation conductance in these cells and in cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons. Similar proteins are expressed in a range of species from protozoa to vertebrates. The proteins are not similar to known pore-forming proteins and thus could be unusual channels or regulatory components of a channel complex.
B. Coste, J. Mathur, M. Schmidt, T. J. Earley, S. Ranade, M. J. Petrus, A. E. Dubin, A. Patapoutian, Piezo1 and Piezo2 are essential components of distinct mechanically activated cation channels. Science 330, 55–60 (2010). [Abstract] [Full Text]