Degenerins. At the core of the metazoan mechanotransducer?

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Jun;940:28-41.


Mechanosensory signaling, believed to be mediated by mechanically gated ion channels, constitutes the basis for the senses of touch and hearing, and contributes fundamentally to the development and homeostasis of all organisms. Despite this profound importance in biology, little is known of the molecular identities or functional requirements of mechanically gated ion channels. Genetic analyses of touch sensation and locomotion in Caenorhabditis elegans have implicated a new class of ion channels, the degenerins (DEG) in nematode mechanotransduction. Related fly and vertebrate proteins, the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) family, have been implicated in several important processes, including transduction of mechanical stimuli, pain sensation, gametogenesis, sodium reabsorption, and blood pressure regulation. Still-to-be-discovered DEG/ENaC proteins may compose the core of the elusive human mechanotransducer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Touch / physiology


  • Ion Channels
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins