In vivo imaging of C. elegans mechanosensory neurons demonstrates a specific role for the MEC-4 channel in the process of gentle touch sensation

Hiroshi Suzuki, Rex Kerr, Laura Bianchi, Christian Frøkjær-Jensen, Dan Slone, Jian Xue, Beate Gerstbrein, Monica Driscoll, William R. Schafer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the nematode C. elegans, genes encoding components of a putative mechanotransducing channel complex have been identified in screens for light-touch-insensitive mutants. A long-standing question, however, is whether identified MEC proteins act directly in touch transduction or contribute indirectly by maintaining basic mechanoreceptor neuron physiology. In this study, we used the genetically encoded calcium indicator cameleon to record cellular responses of mechanosensory neurons to touch stimuli in intact, behaving nematodes. We defined a gentle touch sensory modality that adapts with a time course of approximately 500 ms and primarily senses motion rather than pressure. The DEG/ENaC channel subunit MEC-4 and channel-associated stomatin MEC-2 are specifically required for neural responses to gentle mechanical stimulation, but do not affect the basic physiology of touch neurons or their in vivo responses to harsh mechanical stimulation. These results distinguish a specific role for the MEC channel proteins in the process of gentle touch mechanosensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1005-1017
Number of pages13
JournalNeuron
Volume39
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 11 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Atsushi Miyawaki for providing YC2.12 before publication, Michael Christensen and Kevin Strange for help with cell culture, members of our labs for discussions, and Garth Patterson for critical reading of the manuscript. We also thank Roger Tsien and Oded Tour for the use of equipment and suggestions on improving the reliability of the technique. This work was supported by grants from the NIH (to W.R.S and M.D.), the Human Frontiers Science Program (to W.R.S.), a postdoctoral training grant from the NIH (to R.K.), and the Pskiatrisk Forskningsfond and Novo Nordisk (to C.F-J.).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience

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