Role of PIEZO channels in ultrasound-stimulated dental stem cells

Qianhua Gao, Paul Cooper, Anthony Walmsley, Ben Scheven

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Piezo1 and Piezo2 are mechanosensitive membrane ion channels. We hypothesized that Piezo proteins may play a role in transducing ultrasound-associated mechanical signals and activate downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling processes in dental cells. In this study, the expression and role of Piezo channels were investigated in dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) and periodontal ligament stem cells (PDLSCs) after treatment with low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS).


Cell proliferation was evaluated by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. Western blots were used to analyze the proliferating cell nuclear antigen as well as the transcription factors c-fos and c-jun. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blotting were used to determine the activation of MAPK after LIPUS treatment. Ruthenium red (RR), a Piezo ion channel blocker, was applied to determine the functional role of Piezo proteins in LIPUS-stimulated cell proliferation and MAPK signaling.


Western blotting showed the presence of Piezo1 and Piezo2 in both dental cell types. LIPUS treatment significantly increased the level of the Piezo proteins in DPSCs after 24 hours; however, no significant effects were observed in PDLSCs. Treatment with RR significantly inhibited LIPUS-stimulated DPSC proliferation but not PDLSC proliferation. Extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) 1/2 MAPK was consistently activated in DPSCs over a 24-hour time period after LIPUS exposure, whereas phosphorylated c-Jun N-terminal kinase and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase MAPK were mainly increased in PDLSCs. RR affected MAPK signaling in both dental cell types with its most prominent effects on ERK1/2/MAPK phosphorylation levels; the significant inhibition of LIPUS-induced stimulation of ERK1/2 activation in DPSCs by RR suggests that stimulation of DPSC proliferation by LIPUS involves Piezo-mediated regulation of ERK1/2 MAPK signaling.


This study for the first time supports the role of Piezo ion channels in transducing the LIPUS response in dental stem cells
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Endodontics
Early online date17 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2017


  • Dental pulp cells
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase
  • periodontal cells
  • Piezo1
  • Piezo2
  • ultrasound


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