Abstract: Magnetically sensitive ion channels would allow researchers to better study how specific brain cells affect behavior in freely moving animals; however, recent reports of “magnetogenetic” ion channels based on biogenic ferritin nanoparticles have been questioned because known biophysical mechanisms cannot explain experimental observations. Here, we reproduce a weak magnetically mediated calcium response in HEK cells expressing a previously published TRPV4-ferritin fusion protein. We find that this magnetic sensitivity is attenuated when we reduce the temperature sensitivity of the channel but not when we reduce the mechanical sensitivity of the channel, suggesting that the magnetic sensitivity of this channel is thermally mediated. As a potential mechanism for this thermally mediated magnetic response, we propose that changes in the magnetic entropy of the ferritin particle can generate heat via the magnetocaloric effect and consequently gate the associated temperature-sensitive ion channel. Unlike other forms of magnetic heating, the magnetocaloric mechanism can cool magnetic particles during demagnetization. To test this prediction, we constructed a magnetogenetic channel based on the cold-sensitive TRPM8 channel. Our observation of a magnetic response in cold-gated channels is consistent with the magnetocaloric hypothesis. Together, these new data and our proposed mechanism of action provide additional resources for understanding how ion channels could be activated by low-frequency magnetic fields.

Authors: Guillaume Duret, Sruthi Polali, Erin D.Anderson, A. MartinBell, Constantine N.Tzouanas, Benjamin W.Avants, Jacob T. Robinson