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Nature. 2012 Feb 19;483(7388):209-12. doi: 10.1038/nature10801.

The role of Drosophila Piezo in mechanical nociception.

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1
Department of Cell Biology, Dorris Neuroscience Center, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.

Abstract

Transduction of mechanical stimuli by receptor cells is essential for senses such as hearing, touch and pain. Ion channels have a role in neuronal mechanotransduction in invertebrates; however, functional conservation of these ion channels in mammalian mechanotransduction is not observed. For example, no mechanoreceptor potential C (NOMPC), a member of transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channel family, acts as a mechanotransducer in Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans; however, it has no orthologues in mammals. Degenerin/epithelial sodium channel (DEG/ENaC) family members are mechanotransducers in C. elegans and potentially in D. melanogaster; however, a direct role of its mammalian homologues in sensing mechanical force has not been shown. Recently, Piezo1 (also known as Fam38a) and Piezo2 (also known as Fam38b) were identified as components of mechanically activated channels in mammals. The Piezo family are evolutionarily conserved transmembrane proteins. It is unknown whether they function in mechanical sensing in vivo and, if they do, which mechanosensory modalities they mediate. Here we study the physiological role of the single Piezo member in D. melanogaster (Dmpiezo; also known as CG8486). Dmpiezo expression in human cells induces mechanically activated currents, similar to its mammalian counterparts. Behavioural responses to noxious mechanical stimuli were severely reduced in Dmpiezo knockout larvae, whereas responses to another noxious stimulus or touch were not affected. Knocking down Dmpiezo in sensory neurons that mediate nociception and express the DEG/ENaC ion channel pickpocket (ppk) was sufficient to impair responses to noxious mechanical stimuli. Furthermore, expression of Dmpiezo in these same neurons rescued the phenotype of the constitutive Dmpiezo knockout larvae. Accordingly, electrophysiological recordings from ppk-positive neurons revealed a Dmpiezo-dependent, mechanically activated current. Finally, we found that Dmpiezo and ppk function in parallel pathways in ppk-positive cells, and that mechanical nociception is abolished in the absence of both channels. These data demonstrate the physiological relevance of the Piezo family in mechanotransduction in vivo, supporting a role of Piezo proteins in mechanosensory nociception.

PMID:
22343891
PMCID:
PMC3297676
DOI:
10.1038/nature10801
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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