Mechanosensory transduction in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans

  • Kourtis N
  • Tavernarakis N
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Abstract

Mechanotransduction, the process of converting a mechanical stimulus
into a biological signal, appeared very early in the evolution and
underlies a plethora of fundamental biological processes such as
osmosensation, touch, hearing, balance and proprioception. Mechanosensory
transduction has been studied extensively in simple animal models
such as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila
melanogaster. Genetic and physiological studies have revealed that
specialized macromolecular complexes, encompassing mechanically gated
ion channels, play a critical role in the conversion of mechanical
energy into cellular response. Members of two large ion channel families,
the degenerin/epithelial sodium channels (DEG/ENaC) and the transient
receptor potential ion channels (TRP), have emerged as candidate
mechanosensitive channels. Several auxiliary proteins associate with
the core mechanosensitive channels to form the mechanotransducing
apparatus in specialized mechanosensory cells. C. elegans displays
a variety of mechanosensory behaviours. In this chapter, we survey
the mechanisms of mechanosensory transduction in C. elegans. The
exceptional amenability of this simple metazoan to genetic and molecular
manipulations has facilitated the dissection of the mechanotransduction
process to unprecedented detail.

Author-supplied keywords

  • degenerin
  • ion channels
  • proprioception
  • touch receptor neurons

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Authors

  • Nikos Kourtis

  • Nektarios Tavernarakis

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