I am interested in knowing the molecular mechanism behind mechanoreception/mechanotransduction (i.e. mechanism behind receptor potential generation on mechanical stimulation). I know that most mechanoreceptors (touch, stretch, pressure etc) respond to mechanical modification of plasma membrane or of some external projection embedded in plasma membrane. I want to know the molecular basis behind this mechanical transduction.

Also, the sensory hairs in lateral line sense organs of fishes, and equilibrium and auditory sensation in animals involve generation of receptor potential when the steriocilia( or any equivalent extracellular projection), externally embedded in gelatin, bends in specific ways, another example of mechanotransduction.
(I don't know if all these receptors function with slight modification of the same basic framework or all of them operate with distinguishable mechanisms. If the latter is true, I just want one example of how molecular mechanism might bring about mechanoreception.)

  • $\begingroup$ See this article on mechanotransduction and especially the cartilage section. $\endgroup$ – biogirl Dec 18 '13 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder how exactly mechanical stretching can ope ion channels. $\endgroup$ – biogirl Dec 18 '13 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ i think it distorts the channel ... $\endgroup$ – shigeta Dec 31 '13 at 3:09

A mechanical stimulus can act on a tissue with elastic and viscoelastic properties in two ways [1, 2]:

  • distort the cellular membrane which leads to opening of ion channels.
  • create tension on the extracellular matrix or cytoskeleton, to which a ion channel is bound, thus leading to opening of the channel.

Stretch-activated ion channels opening leads to the formation of an action potential, if there is enough ionic flow to trigger depolarization [1, 3].


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Stretch-activated ion channel," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stretch-activated_ion_channel&oldid=606349902 (accessed July 12, 2014).
  2. Grigg P. Biophysical studies of mechanoreceptors. J. Appl. Physiol. 1986 Apr;60(4):1107-15. PubMed PMID: 2422151.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Mechanotransduction," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mechanotransduction&oldid=593605473 (accessed July 12, 2014).

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