Mechanotransduction in gastrointestinal smooth muscle cells: Role of mechanosensitive ion channels

Vikram Joshi, Peter R. Strege, Gianrico Farrugia, Arthur Beyder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Mechanosensation, the ability to properly sense mechanical stimuli and transduce them into physiologic responses, is an essential determinant of gastrointestinal (GI) function. Abnormalities in this process result in highly prevalent GI functional and motility disorders. In the GI tract, several cell types sense mechanical forces and transduce them into electrical signals, which elicit specific cellular responses. Some mechanosensitive cells like sensory neurons act as specialized mechanosensitive cells that detect forces and transduce signals into tissue-level physiological reactions. Nonspecialized mechanosensitive cells like smooth muscle cells (SMCs) adjust their function in response to forces. Mechanosensitive cells use various mechanoreceptors and mechanotransducers. Mechanoreceptors detect and convert force into electrical and biochemical signals, and mechanotransducers amplify and direct mechanoreceptor responses. Mechanoreceptors and mechanotransducers include ion channels, specialized cytoskeletal proteins, cell junction molecules, and G protein-coupled receptors. SMCs are particularly important due to their role as final effectors for motor function. Myogenic reflex-the ability of smooth muscle to contract in response to stretch rapidly-is a critical smooth muscle function. Such rapid mechanotransduction responses rely on mechano-gated and mechanosensitive ion channels, which alter their ion pores' opening in response to force, allowing fast electrical and Ca2 þ responses. Although GI SMCs express a variety of such ion channels, their identities remain unknown. Recent advancements in electrophysiological, genetic, in vivo imaging, and multi-omic technologies broaden our understanding of how SMC mechano-gated and mechanosensitive ion channels regulate GI functions. This review discusses GI SMC mechanosensitivity's current developments with a particular emphasis on mechano-gated and mechanosensitive ion channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G897-G906
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Calcium signaling
  • Gastrointestinal motility
  • Mechano-gated ion channels
  • Mechanosensation
  • Myogenic response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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