The enigma of sensitivity in Pacinian corpuscles: a critical review and hypothesis of mechano-electric transduction

Neurosci Res. 1987 Oct;5(1):1-15. doi: 10.1016/0168-0102(87)90019-8.


The present report reviews the physiological and morphological specializations of Pacinian corpuscles and other mechanoreceptors that are present in the skin and connective tissues of the body as well as the cochlea. The remarkable sensitivity of Pacinian corpuscles is such that the only form of mechanical energy that could be perceived by a Pacinian corpuscle is a sound wave. In fact the human finger as demonstrated by Munger and Ide (1987) can perceive sound waves when water is the coupling agent. The structural specializations are equally remarkable with extensive membrane specializations of both the inner core and inner portion of the outer core. The halves of the inner core are each coupled with gap junctions and the inner portion of the outer core joined with numerous tight junctions. The cleft regions have specializations involving the axolemma that consist of numerous axonal spines containing bundles of filaments projecting into the cleft of the inner core. These structural specializations are thought to represent specializations for mechano-electric transduction analogous in many respects to the hair cells of the cochlea. A hypothesis for mechano-electric transduction is presented that may account in part for the extreme sensitivity of Pacinian corpuscles and other mechanoreceptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cochlea / innervation
  • Connective Tissue
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation