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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:

Lechner SG, Markworth S, Poole K, Smith ES, Lapatsina L, Frahm S, May M, Pischke S, Suzuki M, Ibañez-Tallon I, Luft FC, Jordan J, Lewin GR. (2011) The molecular and cellular identity of peripheral osmoreceptors. Neuron 69(2):332-44.

Hu J, Chiang L-Y, Erdmann B, Koch M, Lewin GR (2010) A protein tether for touch. EMBO J 29 (4): 855-867

Lechner SG, Frenzel H, Wang R, Lewin GR (2009) Developmental waves of mechanosensitivity acquisition in sensory neuron sub-types during embryonic development. EMBO J May20;28(10): 1479-91.

Park TJ, Lu Y, Juttner R, Smith ES, Hu J, Brand A, Wetzel C, Milenkovic N, Erdmann B, Heppenstall PA, Laurito CE, Wilson SP, Lewin GR (2008) Selective inflammatory pain insensitivity in the african naked mole-rat (heterocephalus glaber). PLoS Biol 6: e13

Milenkovic N, Wetzel C, Moshourab R, Lewin GR (2008) Speed and temperature dependences of mechanotransduction in afferent fibers recorded from the mouse saphenous nerve. J Neurophysiol 100: 2771-2783

Milenkovic N, Frahm C, Gassmann M, Griffel C, Erdmann B, Birchmeier C, Lewin GR, Garratt AN (2007) Nociceptive tuning by stem cell factor/c-kit signaling. Neuron 56: 893-906

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.