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Elife. 2020 Jan 29;9. pii: e50597. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50597.

Distinct roles for innexin gap junctions and hemichannels in mechanosensation.

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1
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Mechanosensation is central to a wide range of functions, including tactile and pain perception, hearing, proprioception, and control of blood pressure, but identifying the molecules underlying mechanotransduction has proved challenging. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the avoidance response to gentle body touch is mediated by six touch receptor neurons (TRNs), and is dependent on MEC-4, a DEG/ENaC channel. We show that hemichannels containing the innexin protein UNC-7 are also essential for gentle touch in the TRNs, as well as harsh touch in both the TRNs and the PVD nociceptors. UNC-7 and MEC-4 do not colocalize, suggesting that their roles in mechanosensory transduction are independent. Heterologous expression of unc-7 in touch-insensitive chemosensory neurons confers ectopic touch sensitivity, indicating a specific role for UNC-7 hemichannels in mechanosensation. The unc-7 touch defect can be rescued by the homologous mouse gene Panx1 gene, thus, innexin/pannexin proteins may play broadly conserved roles in neuronal mechanotransduction.

KEYWORDS:

C. elegans; gap junctions; innexin; mechanosensation; neuroscience

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