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USH2A is a skin end-organ protein necessary for vibration sensing in mice and humans

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Title:USH2A is a skin end-organ protein necessary for vibration sensing in mice and humans
Creators Name:Schwaller, F. and Bégay, V. and García-García, G. and Taberner, F.J. and Moshourab, R. and McDonald, B. and Docter, T. and Kühnemund, J. and Ojeda-Alonso, J. and Paricio-Montesinos, R. and Lechner, S.G. and Poulet, J.F.A. and Millan, J.M. and Lewin, G.R.
Abstract:Fingertip mechanoreceptors comprise sensory neuron endings together with specialized skin cells that form the end-organ. Exquisitely sensitive vibration-sensing neurons are associated with Meissner´s corpuscles and Pacinian corpuscles. Such end-organ structures have been recognized for more than 160 years, but their exact functions have remained a matter of speculation. Here we examined the role of USH2A in touch sensation in humans and mice. The USH2A gene encodes a transmembrane protein with a very large extracellular domain. Pathogenic USH2A mutations cause Usher syndrome associated with hearing loss and visual impairment. We show that patients with biallelic pathogenic USH2A mutations also have profound impairments in vibrotactile touch perception. Similarly, mice lacking the USH2A protein showed severe deficits in a forepaw vibrotactile discrimination task. Forepaw rapidly-adapting mechanoreceptors (RAMs) recorded from Ush2a(-/-) mice innervating Meissner’s corpuscles showed profound reductions in their vibration sensitivity. However, the USH2A protein was not expressed in sensory neurons, but was found in specialized terminal Schwann cells in Meissner’s corpuscles. Loss of this large extracellular tether-like protein in corpuscular end-organs innervated by RAMs was sufficient to reduce the vibration sensitivity of mechanoreceptors. Thus, USH2A expressed in corpuscular end-organs associated with vibration sensing is required to properly perceive vibration. We propose that cells within the corpuscle present a tether-like protein that may link to mechanosensitive channels in sensory endings to facilitate small amplitude vibration detection essential for the perception of fine textured surfaces.
Keywords:Animals, Mice
Publisher:Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Article Number:2020.07.01.180919
Date:2 July 2020
Official Publication:https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.01.180919

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