Mechanotransduction in Caenorhabditis elegans: The role of DEG/ENaC ion channels

Nektarios Tavernarakis, Monica Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


One of the looming mysteries in signal transduction today is the question of how mechanical signals, such as pressure or mechanical force delivered to a cell, are interpreted to direct biological responses. All living organisms, and probably all cells, have the ability to sense and respond to mechanical stimuli. At the single-cell level, mechanical signaling underlies cell-volume control and specialized responses such as the prevention of poly-spermy in fertilization. At the level of the whole organism, mechanotransduction underlies processes as diverse as stretch-activated reflexes in vascular epithelium and smooth muscle; gravitaxis and turgor control in plants; tissue development and morphogenesis; and the senses of touch, hearing, and balance. Intense genetic, molecular, and elecrophysiological studies in organisms ranging from nematodes to mammals have highlighted members of the recently discovered DEG/ENaC family of ion channels as strong candidates for the elusive metazoan mechanotransducer. Here, we discuss the evidence that links DEG/ENaC ion channels to mechanotransduction and review the function of Caenorhabditis elegans members of this family called degenerins and their role in mediating mechanosensitive behaviors in the worm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCell biochemistry and biophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


  • Degenerin
  • Epithelial sodium channel
  • Mechanosensation
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Proprioception


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