Membrane stiffening by STOML3 facilitates mechanosensation in sensory neurons

Nat Commun. 2015 Oct 7:6:8512. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9512.


Sensing force is crucial to maintain the viability of all living cells. Despite its fundamental importance, how force is sensed at the molecular level remains largely unknown. Here we show that stomatin-like protein-3 (STOML3) controls membrane mechanics by binding cholesterol and thus facilitates force transfer and tunes the sensitivity of mechano-gated channels, including Piezo channels. STOML3 is detected in cholesterol-rich lipid rafts. In mouse sensory neurons, depletion of cholesterol and deficiency of STOML3 similarly and interdependently attenuate mechanosensitivity while modulating membrane mechanics. In heterologous systems, intact STOML3 is required to maintain membrane mechanics to sensitize Piezo1 and Piezo2 channels. In C57BL/6N, but not STOML3(-/-) mice, tactile allodynia is attenuated by cholesterol depletion, suggesting that membrane stiffening by STOML3 is essential for mechanical sensitivity. Targeting the STOML3-cholesterol association might offer an alternative strategy for control of chronic pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Membrane / physiology*
  • Cholesterol / chemistry
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Hyperalgesia / genetics
  • Hyperalgesia / metabolism
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*


  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Piezo1 protein, mouse
  • Piezo2 protein, mouse
  • Stoml3 protein, mouse
  • Cholesterol