Mechanosensitive ion channel Piezo2 is important for enterochromaffin cell response to mechanical forces

Fan Wang, Kaitlyn Knutson, Constanza Alcaino, David R. Linden, Simon J. Gibbons, Purna Kashyap, Madhusudan Grover, Richard Oeckler, Philip A. Gottlieb, Hui Joyce Li, Andrew B. Leiter, Gianrico Farrugia, Arthur Beyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Key points: The gastrointestinal epithelial enterochromaffin (EC) cell synthesizes the vast majority of the body's serotonin. As a specialized mechanosensor, the EC cell releases this serotonin in response to mechanical forces. However, the molecular mechanism of EC cell mechanotransduction is unknown. In the present study, we show, for the first time, that the mechanosensitive ion channel Piezo2 is specifically expressed by the human and mouse EC cells. Activation of Piezo2 by mechanical forces results in a characteristic ionic current, the release of serotonin and stimulation of gastrointestinal secretion. Piezo2 inhibition by drugs or molecular knockdown decreases mechanosensitive currents, serotonin release and downstream physiological effects. The results of the present study suggest that the mechanosensitive ion channel Piezo2 is specifically expressed by the EC cells of the human and mouse small bowel and that it is important for EC cell mechanotransduction. Abstract: The enterochromaffin (EC) cell in the gastrointestinal (GI) epithelium is the source of nearly all systemic serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT), which is an important neurotransmitter and endocrine, autocrine and paracrine hormone. The EC cell is a specialized mechanosensor, and it is well known that it releases 5-HT in response to mechanical forces. However, the EC cell mechanotransduction mechanism is unknown. The present study aimed to determine whether Piezo2 is involved in EC cell mechanosensation. Piezo2 mRNA was expressed in human jejunum and mouse mucosa from all segments of the small bowel. Piezo2 immunoreactivity localized specifically within EC cells of human and mouse small bowel epithelium. The EC cell model released 5-HT in response to stretch, and had Piezo2 mRNA and protein, as well as a mechanically-sensitive inward non-selective cation current characteristic of Piezo2. Both inward currents and 5-HT release were inhibited by Piezo2 small interfering RNA and antagonists (Gd3+ and D-GsMTx4). Jejunum mucosal pressure increased 5-HT release and short-circuit current via submucosal 5-HT3 and 5-HT4 receptors. Pressure-induced secretion was inhibited by the mechanosensitive ion channel antagonists gadolinium, ruthenium red and D-GsMTx4. We conclude that the EC cells in the human and mouse small bowel GI epithelium selectively express the mechanosensitive ion channel Piezo2, and also that activation of Piezo2 by force leads to inward currents, 5-HT release and an increase in mucosal secretion. Therefore, Piezo2 is critical to EC cell mechanosensitivity and downstream physiological effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • enterochromaffin cell
  • mechanosensitive ion channel
  • mechanotransduction
  • serotonin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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