Single mechanically-gated cation channel currents can trigger action potentials in neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons

Yury A. Nikolaev, Peter J. Dosen, Derek R. Laver, Dirk F. Van Helden, Owen P. Hamill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


The mammalian brain is a mechanosensitive organ that responds to different mechanical forces ranging from intrinsic forces implicated in brain morphogenesis to extrinsic forces that can cause concussion and traumatic brain injury. However, little is known of the mechanosensors that transduce these forces. In this study we use cell-attached patch recording to measure single mechanically-gated (MG) channel currents and their affects on spike activity in identified neurons in neonatal mouse brain slices. We demonstrate that both neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons express stretch-activated MG cation channels that are activated by suctions of ~25 mm Hg, have a single channel conductance for inward current of 50-70 pS and show weak selectivity for alkali metal cations (i.e., Na+<K+<Cs+). Significantly, single MG channel currents activated on the soma trigger spiking/action potentials in both neocortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons. Not all neuron types studied here expressed MG channel currents. In particular, locus coeruleus and cerebellar Purkinje neurons showed no detectable MG channel activity. Moreover their robust rhythmic spike activity was resistant to mechanical modulation. Our observation that a single MG channel current can trigger spiking predicates the need for reassessment of the long held view that the impulse output of central neurons depends only upon their intrinsic voltage-gated channels and/or their integrated synaptic input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - May 22 2015



  • Action potentials
  • Brain
  • Cation channels
  • Mechanically-gated
  • Triggered

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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