The ability to sense mechanical stimuli and elaborate a response to them is a fundamental process in all organisms, driving crucial mechanisms ranging from cell volume regulation up to organ development or regeneration. Nevertheless, only in few cases the underlying molecular players are known. In particular, mammals possess a large variety of mechanoreceptors, providing highly specialized functions in sensory cells, but also several housekeeping molecular systems are involved in the complex mechanism of mechanotransduction. Recently, a new class of almost ubiquitous membrane channels has been identified in mammalians, namely piezo1 and piezo2, that is thought to play a crucial role in the mechanobiology of mammals. This review focuses on recent findings on these novel channels, and highlights open biophysical questions that largely remain to be addressed.
Keywords: Mechanobiology; Mechanoreceptor; Mechanotransduction; Piezo1; Piezo2.
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