PIEZO2 in sensory neurons and urothelial cells coordinates urination

Nature. 2020 Dec;588(7837):290-295. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2830-7. Epub 2020 Oct 14.


Henry Miller stated that "to relieve a full bladder is one of the great human joys". Urination is critically important in health and ailments of the lower urinary tract cause high pathological burden. Although there have been advances in understanding the central circuitry in the brain that facilitates urination1-3, there is a lack of in-depth mechanistic insight into the process. In addition to central control, micturition reflexes that govern urination are all initiated by peripheral mechanical stimuli such as bladder stretch and urethral flow4. The mechanotransduction molecules and cell types that function as the primary stretch and pressure detectors in the urinary tract mostly remain unknown. Here we identify expression of the mechanosensitive ion channel PIEZO2 in lower urinary tract tissues, where it is required for low-threshold bladder-stretch sensing and urethral micturition reflexes. We show that PIEZO2 acts as a sensor in both the bladder urothelium and innervating sensory neurons. Humans and mice lacking functional PIEZO2 have impaired bladder control, and humans lacking functional PIEZO2 report deficient bladder-filling sensation. This study identifies PIEZO2 as a key mechanosensor in urinary function. These findings set the foundation for future work to identify the interactions between urothelial cells and sensory neurons that control urination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / deficiency
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Pressure
  • Reflex / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Urinary Bladder / cytology
  • Urinary Bladder / innervation*
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology*
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology
  • Urinary Tract / innervation
  • Urinary Tract / metabolism
  • Urination / physiology*
  • Urothelium / cytology*
  • Urothelium / metabolism


  • Ion Channels
  • PIEZO2 protein, human
  • Piezo2 protein, mouse