Lamellar cells in Pacinian and Meissner corpuscles are touch sensors

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Science Advances  16 Dec 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 51, eabe6393
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe6393


The skin covering the human palm and other specialized tactile organs contains a high density of mechanosensory corpuscles tuned to detect transient pressure and vibration. These corpuscles comprise a sensory afferent neuron surrounded by lamellar cells. The neuronal afferent is thought to be the mechanical sensor, whereas the function of lamellar cells is unknown. We show that lamellar cells within Meissner and Pacinian corpuscles detect tactile stimuli. We develop a preparation of bill skin from tactile-specialist ducks that permits electrophysiological recordings from lamellar cells and demonstrate that they contain mechanically gated ion channels. We show that lamellar cells from Meissner corpuscles generate mechanically evoked action potentials using R-type voltage-gated calcium channels. These findings provide the first evidence for R-type channel-dependent action potentials in non-neuronal cells and demonstrate that lamellar cells actively detect touch. We propose that Meissner and Pacinian corpuscles use neuronal and non-neuronal mechanoreception to detect mechanical signals.

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