Morley, 2016

2016 - ELIFE 5 doi: 10.7554/eLife.20813

Acetylated tubulin is essential for touch sensation in mice

Morley SJ, Qi YM, Iovino L, Andolfi L, Guo D, Kalebic N, Castaldi L, Tischer C, Portulano C, Bolasco G, Shirlekar K, Fusco CM, Asaro A, Fermani F, Sundukova M, Matti U, Reymond L, De Ninno A, Businaro L, Johnsson K, Lazzarino M, Ries J, Schwab Y, Hu J, Heppenstall PA.


At its most fundamental level, touch sensation requires the translation of mechanical energy into mechanosensitive ion channel opening, thereby generating electro-chemical signals. Our understanding of this process, especially how the cytoskeleton influences it, remains unknown. Here we demonstrate that mice lacking the α-tubulin acetyltransferase Atat1 in sensory neurons display profound deficits in their ability to detect mechanical stimuli. We show that all cutaneous afferent subtypes, including nociceptors have strongly reduced mechanosensitivity upon Atat1 deletion, and that consequently, mice are largely insensitive to mechanical touch and pain. We establish that this broad loss of mechanosensitivity is dependent upon the acetyltransferase activity of Atat1, which when absent leads to a decrease in cellular elasticity. By mimicking α-tubulin acetylation genetically, we show both cellular rigidity and mechanosensitivity can be restored in Atat1 deficient sensory neurons. Hence, our results indicate that by influencing cellular stiffness, α-tubulin acetylation sets the force required for touch.


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