While mechanobiological processes employ diverse mechanisms, at their heart are force-induced perturbations in the structure and dynamics of molecules capable of triggering subsequent events. Among the best characterized force-sensing systems are bacterial mechanosensitive channels. These channels reflect an intimate coupling of protein conformation with the mechanics of the surrounding membrane; the membrane serves as an adaptable sensor that responds to an input of applied force and converts it into an output signal, interpreted for the cell by mechanosensitive channels. The cell can exploit this information in a number of ways: ensuring cellular viability in the presence of osmotic stress and perhaps also serving as a signal transducer for membrane tension or other functions. This review focuses on the bacterial mechanosensitive channels of large (MscL) and small (MscS) conductance and their eukaryotic homologs, with an emphasis on the outstanding issues surrounding the function and mechanism of this fascinating class of molecules.
Haswell, Elizabeth S.; Phillips, Rob; and Rees, Douglas C., "Mechanosensitive channels: what can they do and how do they do it?" (2011). Biology Faculty Publications & Presentations. 11.
Author version after review. Published in final form in Structure, 19, issue 10 (2011), 1356-69. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.str.2011.09.005. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc.