Merkel cells touch a nerve

Epidermal Merkel cells sense touch, but how they activate sensory neurons is not clear. Now, Hoffman et al. demonstrate that Merkel cells manufacture presynaptic and catecholamine-synthesis machinery, and can package and release a neurotransmitter analogue into and from vesicles, respectively. Noradrenaline evoked action potentials in Merkel cell afferents, and a β2-adrenergic antagonist blocked touch-evoked neural responses. Thus, Merkel cells release noradrenaline across synapses to activate sensory neurons.


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  1. Hoffman, B. U. et al. Merkel cells activate sensory neural pathways through adrenergic synapses. Neuron (2018)

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Correspondence to Natasha Bray.

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Bray, N. Merkel cells touch a nerve. Nat Rev Neurosci 20, 4 (2019).

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