Indexed on: 06 Feb '10Published on: 06 Feb '10Published in: Physiology (Bethesda, Md.)
Mechanosensitive ion channels (MSCs) exist in all cells, but mechanosensitivity is a phenotype not a genotype. Specialized mechanoreceptors such as the hair cells of the cochlea require elaborate mechanical impedance matching to couple the channels to the external stress. In contrast, MSCs in nonspecialized cells appear activated by stress in the bilayer local to the channel--within about three lipids. Local mechanical stress can be produced by far-field tension, amphipaths, phase separations, the cytoskeleton, the extracellular matrix, and the adhesion energy between the membrane and a patch pipette. Understanding MSC function requires under standing the stimulus.