Sensory neurons innervating the skin encode the familiar sensations of temperature, touch and pain. An explosion of progress has revealed unanticipated cellular and molecular complexity in these senses. It is now clear that perception of a single stimulus, such as heat, requires several transduction mechanisms. Conversely, a given protein may contribute to multiple senses, such as heat and touch. Recent studies have also led to the surprising insight that skin cells might transduce temperature and touch. To break the code underlying somatosensation, we must therefore understand how the skin's sensory functions are divided among signalling molecules and cell types.
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