Every moment of every day, our skin and its embedded sensory neurons are bombarded with mechanical cues that we experience as pleasant or painful. Knowing the difference between innocuous and noxious mechanical stimuli is critical for survival and relies on the function of mechanoreceptor neurons that vary in their size, shape, and sensitivity. Their function is poorly understood at the molecular level. This review emphasizes the importance of integrating analysis at the molecular and cellular levels and focuses on the discovery of ion channel proteins coexpressed in the mechanoreceptors of worms, flies, and mice.
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