NompC was one of the earliest identified mechanosensitive ion channels responsible for the sensation of touch and balance in Drosophila melanogaster . A tethered gating model was proposed for NompC and the Cryo-EM structure has been solved. However, the atomistic mechano-gating mechanism still remains elusive. Here we show the atomistic details of the NompC channel opening in response to the compression of the intracellular domain while remaining closed under an intracellular stretch. This is demonstrated by all-atom molecular dynamics simulations and evidenced by electrophysiological experiments. Under intracellular compression, the ankyrin repeat region undergoes a significant conformational change and passes the mechanical force to the linker helices like a spring with a force constant of ~3.3 pN/nm. The linker helix region acts as a bridge between the ankyrin repeats and TRP domain, and most of the mutations breaking the hydrogen bonds around this region lead to the loss-of-function of the channel. Eventually, the compression-induced mechanical force is passed from the linker helices onto the TRP domain, which then undergoes a clockwise rotation that leads to the opening of the channel. This work provides a clear picture of how a pushing force opens the mechanosensitive ion channel NompC, which might be a universal gating mechanism of similar tethered mechanosensitive ion channels, enabling cells to feel and respond to compression or shrinking.
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