Bacterial mechanosensitive channels sense the changes in lateral tension in the bilayer of the cytoplasmic membrane generated by rapid water flow into the cell. Two major structural families are found widely distributed across bacteria and archaea: MscL and MscS. Our understanding of the mechanisms of gating has advanced rapidly through genetic analysis, structural biology and electrophysiology. It is only recently that the analysis of the physiological roles of the channels has kept pace with mechanistic studies. Recent advances have increased our understanding of the role of the channels in preventing structural perturbation during osmotic transitions and its relationship to water flow across the membrane. It is to these recent developments that this review is dedicated.
- osmotic downshock