On Feb. 5, 2019, Bailong Xiao’s group published ’Mechanically Activated Piezo Channels Mediate Touch and Suppress Acute Mechanical Pain Response in Mice’ in Cell Reports.
Touch and mechanical pain represent distinct, but interactive, modalities of mechanosensation. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these mechanotransduction processes remain incompletely understood. Here, they show that deletion of the mechanically activated and rapidly adapting Piezo2 channel in a portion of the low-threshold mechanoreceptors and a majority of the IB4-positive nociceptors impairs touch but sensitizes mechanical pain in mice. Ectopic expression of the Piezo2 homolog, the intermediately adapting Piezo1 channel, in sensory neurons can sensitize touch in normal mice and rescue defective touch of the Piezo2-knockout mice. Broad expression of Piezo1 in sensory neurons decreases, rather than evokes, mechanical pain responses. Together, our data suggest that Piezo channels can mediate touch and indirectly suppress acute pain. Tuning Piezo-mediated touch sensitivity allows us to recapitulate the inhibitory effect of touch on acute pain in mouse models.