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Dr Brendan Lehnert

Genetic Identification of an Expansive Mechanoreceptor Sensitive to Stroking of the Skin

Brendan Lehnert Photo

Dr Brendan Lehnert
Harvard Medical School Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Neurobiology
Host: Dr Liam Browne 

Skin contains a diverse set of peripheral mechanosensitive neurons specialized for the transduction of impinging mechanical forces. Their terminals exhibit tremendous morphological heterogeneity that specifies their mechanical receptivity.

In a survey of mammalian skin, we found a preponderance of neurofilament-heavy-chain(+) circumferential endings associated with hair follicles, prompting us to develop a genetic strategy to interrogate these numerous, yet previously uncharacterized neurons. Targeted in vivo recordings revealed them to be Aβ field-LTMRs (low threshold mechanoreceptors), suggested to exist 50 years ago but largely elusive thereafter.

Remarkably, while Aβ field-LTMRs are highly sensitive to gentle stroking of the skin, they are unresponsive to hair deflection, and they encode skin indentation in the noxious range across large, spotty receptive fields.

Thus, Aβ field-LTMRs are a major mammalian LTMR subtype that forms circumferential endings in hairy skin, and their sensitivity to gentle skin stroking arises through integration across many low-sensitivity circumferential endings.  

Date: Friday 29th July 2016
Time: 3.30pm (please note earlier start time) 
Venue: Cruciform Café, 1st Floor Cruciform Building, Gower Street, UCL, WC1E 6BT
Refreshments will be provided