The DEG/ENaC ion channel family contributes to channels of striking functional diversity. Neuronally expressed family members include the C. elegans degenerins that mediate touch and are thought to be mechanically gated, and the mammalian ASICs, which are gated by protons. ASICs affect a range of sensory functions that includes perception of gentle touch, harsh touch, heat, sour taste, and pain. Family member ASIC1 is now implicated in long-term potentiation, suggesting that minute fluxes in synaptic pH may activate ASICs to enhance learning.
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