Kv1.1 channels act as mechanical brake in the senses of touch and pain

Neuron. 2013 Mar 6;77(5):899-914. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.12.035.


Molecular determinants of threshold sensitivity of mammalian mechanoreceptors are unknown. Here, we identify a mechanosensitive (MS) K(+) current (IKmech) that governs mechanical threshold and adaptation of distinct populations of mechanoreceptors. Toxin profiling and transgenic mouse studies indicate that IKmech is carried by Kv1.1-Kv1.2 heteromers. Mechanosensitivity is attributed to Kv1.1 subunits, through facilitation of voltage-dependent open probability. IKmech is expressed in high-threshold C-mechano-nociceptors (C-HTMRs) and Aβ-mechanoreceptors, but not in low-threshold C-mechanoreceptors. IKmech opposes depolarization induced by slow/ultraslow MS cation currents in C-HTMRs, thereby shifting mechanical threshold for firing to higher values. However, due to kinetics mismatch with rapidly-adapting MS cation currents, IKmech tunes firing adaptation but not mechanical threshold in Aβ-mechanoreceptors. Expression of Kv1.1 dominant negative or inhibition of Kv1.1/IKmech caused severe mechanical allodynia but not heat hyperalgesia. By balancing the activity of excitatory mechanotransducers, Kv1.1 acts as a mechanosensitive brake that regulates mechanical sensitivity of fibers associated with mechanical perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • KCNQ Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel / genetics
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel / physiology*
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Touch / physiology*


  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • KCNQ Potassium Channels
  • Kcnh1 protein, mouse
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel