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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
The Meissner corpuscle, a mechanosensory end organ, was discovered more than 165 years ago and has since been found in the glabrous skin of all mammals, including that on human fingertips. Although prominently featured in textbooks, the function of the Meissner corpuscle is unknown. Neubarth et al. generated adult mice without Meissner corpuscles and used them to show that these corpuscles alone mediate behavioral responses to, and perception of, gentle forces (see the Perspective by Marshall and Patapoutian). Each Meissner corpuscle is innervated by two molecularly distinct, yet physiologically similar, mechanosensory neurons. These two neuronal subtypes are developmentally interdependent and their endings are intertwined within the corpuscle. Both Meissner mechanosensory neuron subtypes are homotypically tiled, ensuring uniform and complete coverage of the skin, yet their receptive fields are overlapping and offset with respect to each other. Science, this issue p. eabb2751; see also p. 1311 Light touch perception and fine sensorimotor control arise from spatially overlapping mechanoreceptors of the Meissner corpuscle. Meissner corpuscles are mechanosensory end organs that densely occupy mammalian glabrous skin. We generated mice that selectively lacked Meissner corpuscles and found them to be deficient in both perceiving the gentlest detectable forces acting on glabrous skin and fine sensorimotor control. We found that Meissner corpuscles are innervated by two mechanoreceptor subtypes that exhibit distinct responses to tactile stimuli. The anatomical receptive fields of these two mechanoreceptor subtypes homotypically tile glabrous skin in a manner that is offset with respect to one another. Electron microscopic analysis of the two Meissner afferents within the corpuscle supports a model in which the extent of lamellar cell wrappings of mechanoreceptor endings determines their force sensitivity thresholds and kinetic properties.