Prof. Dr. Gary R. Lewin


Molecular Physiology of Somatic Sensation

Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)






Research interest:

We focus of the molecular mechanisms of somatic sensation. Somatic sensation includes all those sensations that we are consciously aware of after stimulation of the body, e.g. touch, warmth, cooling, or even limb movement. We experience these sensations as a direct result of the activation of sensory neurons that are located in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Sensory neurons can, for example, detect changes in temperature of the skin in non-noxious (not painful) as well as the noxious range (painful heat, or cold). They can also detect gentle movement of the skin as well as intense mechanical stimulation of the skin that is normally harmful. One of our main interests is to identify the ion channels, expressed by sensory neurons, that transduce relevant stimuli. The molecular nature of the transduction molecules involved together with the developmental events that lead to specification of the appropriate sensory neuron sub-types are actively investigated the lab.



Whole cell patch clamp recording from cultured neurons, Molecular Biology,  Extracellular recording techniques,  Micro arrays, Generation of knockout/ knockin gene modified mice,  Behavioral assay of touch and pain sensation, Cell culture techniques (hetreologous expression of genes including ion channels)


Selected Publications:

Wetzel, C., Hu, J., Riethmacher, D., Benckendorff, A., Harder, L., Eilers, A., Moshourab, R., Kozlenkov, A., Labuz, D., Caspani, O, Erdmann, B., Machelska, H., Heppenstall P.A., Lewin, G.R. (2007). A stomatin-domain protein essential for touch sensation in the mouse. Nature 445, 206-209


Hu, J., Lewin, G.R. (2006). Mechanosensitive currents in the neurites of cultured mouse sensory neurones. J Physiol. 577, 815-828


Shin JB, Martinez-Salgado C, Heppenstall PA, Lewin GR (2003) A T-type calcium channel required for normal function of a mammalian mechanoreceptor. Nature Neuroscience 6:724-730.


Stucky CL, Shin JB, Lewin GR (2002) Neurotrophin-4: a survival factor for adult sensory neurons. Curr Biol 12:1401-1404.