TACAN Is an Ion Channel Involved in Sensing Mechanical Pain

Cell. 2020 Mar 5;180(5):956-967.e17. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.01.033. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Mechanotransduction, the conversion of mechanical stimuli into electrical signals, is a fundamental process underlying essential physiological functions such as touch and pain sensing, hearing, and proprioception. Although the mechanisms for some of these functions have been identified, the molecules essential to the sense of pain have remained elusive. Here we report identification of TACAN (Tmem120A), an ion channel involved in sensing mechanical pain. TACAN is expressed in a subset of nociceptors, and its heterologous expression increases mechanically evoked currents in cell lines. Purification and reconstitution of TACAN in synthetic lipids generates a functional ion channel. Finally, a nociceptor-specific inducible knockout of TACAN decreases the mechanosensitivity of nociceptors and reduces behavioral responses to painful mechanical stimuli but not to thermal or touch stimuli. We propose that TACAN is an ion channel that contributes to sensing mechanical pain.

Keywords: TACAN; bilayer; ion channel; mechanosensitive; mechanotransduction; nociceptor; pain; patch clamp; pillar.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Lipids / genetics
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nociceptors / metabolism*
  • Pain / genetics*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Touch / genetics*
  • Touch / physiology


  • Ion Channels
  • Lipids
  • Tmem120A protein, mouse