In Drosophila larvae, nociceptive mdIV sensory neurons detect diverse noxious stimuli and prompt a nociceptive rolling response. Intriguingly, the same neurons also regulate stereotyped larval movement. The channels responsible for transducing these stimuli into electric signals are not yet fully identified. Here we undertook genetic and electrophysiological analysis of Ppk19, a member of the Deg/ENaC family of cationic channels. ppk19 mutants exhibited an impaired nociceptive rolling response upon mechanical force and acid, but no impairment in response to noxious temperature and gentle touch. Mutants also exhibited defective larval movement. RNAi against ppk19 in mdIV neurons likewise produced larvae with defects in mechanical and acid nociception and larval movement, but no impairment in detection of heat and gentle touch. Cultured cells transfected with ppk19 produced currents in acid and hypotonic solution, suggesting that ppk19 encodes an ion channel that responds to acid and cell swelling. Taken together, these findings suggest that Ppk19 acts in mdIV neurons as a proton- and mechano-gated ion channel to mediate acid- and mechano-responsive nociception and larval movement.
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