Peripheral Mechanobiology of Touch-Studies on Vertebrate Cutaneous Sensory Corpuscles

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Aug 27;21(17):6221. doi: 10.3390/ijms21176221.


The vertebrate skin contains sensory corpuscles that are receptors for different qualities of mechanosensitivity like light brush, touch, pressure, stretch or vibration. These specialized sensory organs are linked anatomically and functionally to mechanosensory neurons, which function as low-threshold mechanoreceptors connected to peripheral skin through Aβ nerve fibers. Furthermore, low-threshold mechanoreceptors associated with Aδ and C nerve fibers have been identified in hairy skin. The process of mechanotransduction requires the conversion of a mechanical stimulus into electrical signals (action potentials) through the activation of mechanosensible ion channels present both in the axon and the periaxonal cells of sensory corpuscles (i.e., Schwann-, endoneurial- and perineurial-related cells). Most of those putative ion channels belong to the degenerin/epithelial sodium channel (especially the family of acid-sensing ion channels), the transient receptor potential channel superfamilies, and the Piezo family. This review updates the current data about the occurrence and distribution of putative mechanosensitive ion channels in cutaneous mechanoreceptors including primary sensory neurons and sensory corpuscles.

Keywords: Piezo2; acid-sensing ion channels; low-threshold mechanoreceptors; mechanoproteins; sensory corpuscles; skin; transient receptor potential channels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Nerve Fibers / metabolism
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Touch*
  • Vertebrates


  • Ion Channels