Transducing touch in Caenorhabditis elegans

Annu Rev Physiol. 2003;65:429-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.65.092101.142659. Epub 2002 May 1.


Mechanosensation has been studied for decades, but understanding of its molecular mechanism is only now emerging from studies in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster. In both cases, the entry point proved to be genetic screens that allowed molecules needed for mechanosensation to be identified without any prior understanding of the likely components. In C. elegans, genetic screens revealed molecules needed for touch sensation along the body wall and other regions of force sensitivity. Members of two extensive membrane protein families have emerged as candidate sensory mechanotransduction channels: mec-4 and mec-10, which encode amiloride-sensitive channels (ASCs or DEG/ENaCs), and osm-9, which encodes a TRP ion channel. There are roughly 50 other members of these families whose functions in C. elegans are unknown. This article classifies these channels in C. elegans, with an emphasis on insights into their function derived from mutation. We also review the neuronal cell types in which these channels might be expressed and mediate mechanotransduction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / chemistry
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / physiology
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Touch / physiology*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins