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Piezo2 channel conductance and localization domains in Merkel cells of rat whisker hair follicles

Neuroscience Letters
DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2014.05.055
  • Merkel Cell
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Mechanoreceptor
  • Piezo2
  • Whisker Hair Follicle


Abstract We have recently shown that Merkel cells transduce tactile stimuli via Piezo2 channels to initiate the sense of touch. Here we performed patch-clamp recordings to assess single channel activity on the membranes of Merkel cells in whisker hair follicles. Under the cell-attached configuration, most Merkel cell membrane patches showed large outward unitary currents with single channel conductance being ∼200pS. The outward unitary currents were not affected by negative pressures up to 150mmHg when applied to the membrane patches. The application of negative pressures up to 190mmHg also could not directly elicit any inward unitary current in the membrane patches. However, after establishing the whole-cell configuration, mechanically activated currents (MA) that resembled Piezo2 currents could be elicited by membrane displacements in every Merkel cell tested. While the MA current decayed rapidly, a small steady-state current component with significant channel noise could be observed. Applications of stationary and non-stationary fluctuation analyses to the MA currents yielded single channel conductance of 32.5±3.8 and 54.0±5.3pS, respectively. The lack of mechanical responses under the cell-attached configuration and the existence of Piezo2 MA currents under the whole-cell configuration raised a possibility that Piezo2 channels are preferentially located on Merkel cell processes, the membrane domains inaccessible by recording electrodes.

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