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Ultrasound activates mechanosensitive TRAAK K+ channels through the lipid membrane.


Ultrasound modulates the electrical activity of excitable cells and offers advantages over other neuromodulatory techniques; for example, it can be noninvasively transmitted through the skull and focused to deep brain regions. However, the fundamental cellular, molecular, and mechanistic bases of ultrasonic neuromodulation are largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate ultrasound activation of the mechanosensitive K+ channel TRAAK with submillisecond kinetics to an extent comparable to canonical mechanical activation. Single-channel recordings reveal a common basis for ultrasonic and mechanical activation with stimulus-graded destabilization of long-duration closures and promotion of full conductance openings. Ultrasonic energy is transduced to TRAAK through the membrane in the absence of other cellular components, likely increasing membrane tension to promote channel opening. We further demonstrate ultrasonic modulation of neuronally expressed TRAAK. These results suggest mechanosensitive channels underlie physiological responses to ultrasound and could serve as sonogenetic actuators for acoustic neuromodulation of genetically targeted cells.

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