Mechanically Sensitive Ion Channels: Biological Models for Nanoscale Stress Sensors

  • Frederick Sachs


Living organisms are continuously engaged in non-destructive testing, measuring themselves and their environment. Survival of an organism depends critically on the quality of its sensory systems used to obtain food, prevent injury, make repairs and reproduce. Organisms have evolved senses tuned to energies derived from photons, chemicals, electrical potentials and mechanical stress. These modalities are used at all levels from single cells to multicellular organisms. At the systemic level we are all familiar with the conscious senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell. These senses feed information to the central nervous system (CNS). Additional information is sent to the CNS from receptors in muscles and joints to permit coordinated movements. Sensors in the internal organs of the body inform the CNS of the status of internal machinery. Some signals are sent as hormones by the blood stream and extracellular fluid circulation rather than by the nervous system. At the level of individual cells, sensory systems are used for feedback to maintain cell integrity. For example, stretching a muscle cell causes it to increase its contractile proteins. In devising smart materials, we may learn to emulate the multitude of feedback systems that characterize living organisms. In this article, I will focus on one sensory system that is used to transform mechanical stress into and electrochemical output. These transducers are called mechanosensory ion channels. For those interested in more details, several recent reviews are available1–3


Mechanosensitive Channel Maintain Cell Integrity Gastric Smooth Muscle Cells12 Mechanosensitive Current Embryonic Chick Skeletal Muscle 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick Sachs
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biophysical SciencesSUNYABBuffaloUSA

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