University of Cambridge > > Adrian Seminars in Neuroscience > The mechanics and biophysics of getting in touch

The mechanics and biophysics of getting in touch

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Touch is the first sense to develop, the last to fade and the least well understood of the five basic senses. For decades, we have understood that ion channels were the first responders of touch sensation—converting the mechanical energy delivered in a touch or the bend of a limb into neural signals. Yet, the identity of the proteins forming such proteins remained elusive. Research in my group and others has identified at least three classes of proteins that can form these so-called mechanoelectrical transduction (MeT) channels in mammals and invertebrates—DEG/ENaC sodium channels, TRP cation channels, and Piezo cation channels. We are working to expand our knowledge of how MeT channels depend on biophysics of force transfer for activation (Eastwood et al, PNAS 2015 ; Sanzeni et al, BioRxiv 2019; Katta et al, BioRxiv 2019) and continuing to investigate the protein partners that make these channels.

My talk will survey prior knowledge and discuss our recent investigations applying the tools of genetic dissection and quantitative mechanical models to the biophysics of in vivo MeT channel activation using C. elegans nematodes as a tractable model.

This talk is part of the Adrian Seminars in Neuroscience series.

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