A Change in ECM Composition Affects Sensory Organ Mechanics and Function

Abeer Hassan, Liel Sapir, Ido Nitsan, Rina T. Greenblatt Ben-El, Naomi Halachmi, Adi Salzberg, Shelly Tzlil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proprioception requires the transduction of muscle-generated deformations into sensory neuronal impulses. In proprioceptive organs, the mechanical coupling between the sensory neuron and the muscle is mediated by a connective structure composed of accessory cells and an extracellular matrix (ECM). Here, we use the fly chordotonal organ (ChO) to investigate how the mechanical properties of the connective element affect mechanosensing. We show that the loss of Pericardin, a major constituent of the ChO ECM, alters the mechanical properties of the ChO resulting in short-wavelength buckling of the accessory cells upon muscle contraction and low compressive strain within the organ. We explain these results using a simplified theoretical model of an elastic beam interacting with an elastic network under a compressive force. We further demonstrate that the transition from compression to bending interferes with the ability of the accessory cells to propagate muscle-generated deformations correctly to the neuron and hence with proper sensing. Hassan et al. show that loss of Pericardin, an extracellular matrix (ECM) component of the chordotonal organ (ChO), alters the mechanical properties of the ChO and interferes with its ability to propagate muscle-generated deformations to the neuron, thus affecting mechanosensing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2272-2280.e4
JournalCell Reports
Issue number8
StatePublished - 21 May 2019


  • cell mechanics
  • chordotonal
  • mechanotransduction

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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