New method offers insights into tension-sensitivity of potassium channels

Ion channels play an indispensable role in cellular physiology, and understanding the physical features that affect ion channel functions is a matter of considerable interest to biologists. Given that mechanosensitivity is an intrinsic feature of cells, the complex set of mechanical stresses acting on a cell at any time represents an important consideration in the field of cellular physiology. In fact, stretching forces created by mechanical stress are sometimes necessary to activate ion channels. As Professor Masayuki Iwamoto and Professor Shigetoshi Oiki of the University of Fukui explain, "Mechanical stresses change the level of cell membrane tension, and stretch-activated ion channels in the membrane mediate tension-related electrical transduction."