The role in microbial physiology and the possibility of using bacterial mechanosensitive channels as drug targets
We have equipment that allows us to visualize the patch in a microelectrode. This allows us to calculate tension in the membrane. Since the channels gate to tension in the membrane, not pressure across it, this is critical for certain experiments.
Mechanosensitive channels reside in the cytoplasmic membrane of essentially all microbes where they can play the role of an “emergency release valve”, allowing the organism to adjust to acute decreases in osmotic environments. By understanding the physiology, we get a better idea of how channels may serve as pharmacological targets. For example, our data demonstrate that if the MscL channel gates at inappropriate times, cell growth rate decreases and/or viability is lost; hence, if a specific agonist could be developed, it could have uses as an anti-microbial agent.