PhD Rice University, Houston, TX
BS Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
How do we hear sounds? How do our bodies measure blood pressure? How do we feel touch and pain? All these fundamental physiological functions are mediated by mechanotransduction, the process through which cells convert mechanical stimuli into electrochemical activity. Several ion channels gated by mechanical forces have been identified as the key players in mechanotransduction in prokaryotes and invertebrates. In mammals, a long-sought-after class of mechanosensitive channels were only recently discovered. The Piezo channels are involved in various aspects of biology including vascular development, neural stem cell differentiation, cell migration and light touch sensing. Mutations in Piezo1 are associated with hereditary stomatocytosis caused by dehydration of red blood cells and mutations of Piezo2 protein are linked to Marden-Walker syndrome and distal arthrogryposis. Despite their important roles in physiology and pathology, many fundamental aspects of Piezo channels are unknown. Most significantly, we do not yet know how they convert mechanical force into the opening of an ion conduction pore. My project aims to study this aspect of Piezo channels.