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Glyco-proteins bound to ion channels mediate detection of electric fields

A proposed mechanism and supporting evidence


According to our model (Fig. 2), the minimal mass of glycoproteins needed to detect a field of 2 mV/m is M&1.4_10_18/2_10_6&0.7_10_12 kg, which corresponds to a sphere of about 11 mm in diameter. Electroreceptor cells have diameters of 10–20 mm. If we assume that the glycoproteins form prolate ellipsoids, it is easy to see that they could control the opening of 10–20 ion channels per cell, which could be sufficient to initiate transduction by the same mechanism as that occurring in stretch receptors. A 2-MDa hyaluronan molecule has a length of about 5 mm, and individual hyaluronan molecules can be linked together to form cables >200 mm [Day and de la Motte, 2005]. Thus, the force applied to the glycoproteins by the field could cause a simultaneous response in many cells.

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