Review

The gentle touch receptors of mammalian skin

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Science  21 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6212, pp. 950-954
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254229

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Abstract

The skin is our largest sensory organ, transmitting pain, temperature, itch, and touch information to the central nervous system. Touch sensations are conveyed by distinct combinations of mechanosensory end organs and the low-threshold mechanoreceptors (LTMRs) that innervate them. Here we explore the various structures underlying the diverse functions of cutaneous LTMR end organs. Beyond anchoring of LTMRs to the surrounding dermis and epidermis, recent evidence suggests that the non-neuronal components of end organs play an active role in signaling to LTMRs and may physically gate force-sensitive channels in these receptors. Combined with LTMR intrinsic properties, the balance of these factors comprises the response properties of mechanosensory neurons and, thus, the neural encoding of touch.

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