Cation channels in the DEG/ENaC family are proposed to detect cutaneous stimuli in mammals. We localized one such channel, DRASIC, in several different specialized sensory nerve endings of skin, suggesting it might participate in mechanosensation and/or acid-evoked nociception. Disrupting the mouse DRASIC gene altered sensory transduction in specific and distinct ways. Loss of DRASIC increased the sensitivity of mechanoreceptors detecting light touch, but it reduced the sensitivity of a mechanoreceptor responding to noxious pinch and decreased the response of acid- and noxious heat-sensitive nociceptors. The data suggest that DRASIC subunits participate in heteromultimeric channel complexes in sensory neurons. Moreover, in different cellular contexts, DRASIC may respond to mechanical stimuli or to low pH to mediate normal touch and pain sensation.
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