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An extracellular acidic cleft confers profound H+-sensitivity to epithelial sodium channels containing the δ-subunit in Xenopus laevispH-sensitivity of Xenopus δ-ENaC

  • The limited sodium availability of freshwater and terrestrial environments was a major physiological challenge during vertebrate evolution. The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is present in the apical membrane of sodium-absorbing vertebrate epithelia and evolved as part of a machinery for efficient sodium conservation. ENaC belongs to the degenerin/ENaC protein family and is the only member that opens without an external stimulus. We hypothesized that ENaC evolved from a proton-activated sodium channel present in ionocytes of freshwater vertebrates and therefore investigated whether such ancestral traits are present in ENaC isoforms of the aquatic pipid frog Xenopus laevis. Using whole-cell and single-channel electrophysiology of Xenopus oocytes expressing ENaC isoforms assembled from alpha beta gamma- or delta beta gamma-subunit combinations, we demonstrate that Xenopus delta beta gamma-ENaC is profoundly activated by extracellular acidification within biologically relevant ranges (pH 8.0-6.0). This effect was not observed in Xenopus alpha beta gamma-ENaC or human ENaC orthologs. We show that protons interfere with allosteric ENaC inhibition by extracellular sodium ions, thereby increasing the probability of channel opening. Using homology modeling of ENaC structure and site-directed mutagenesis, we identified a cleft region within the extracellular loop of the delta-subunit that contains several acidic amino acid residues that confer proton-sensitivity and enable allosteric inhibition by extracellular sodium ions. We propose that Xenopus delta beta gamma-ENaC can serve as a model for investigating ENaC transformation from a proton-activated toward a constitutively-active ion channel. Such transformation might have occurred during the evolution of tetrapod vertebrates to enable bulk sodium absorption during the water-to-land transition.

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Document Type:Article
Author:Lukas Wichmann, Jasdip Singh Dulai, Jon Marles-Wright, Stephan Maxeiner, Pawel Piotr Szczesniak, Ivan Manzini, Mike Althaus
Parent Title (English):The Journal of Biological Chemistry
Number of pages:14
First Page:12507
Last Page:12520
Date of first publication:2019/06/27
Keyword:Xenopus; allosteric regulation; delta-subunit; epithelial sodium channel (ENaC); evolution; molecular evolution; pH; sodium self-inhibition; tetrapod; water-to-land transition
Departments, institutes and facilities:Institut für funktionale Gen-Analytik (IFGA)
Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC):5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Entry in this database:2023/03/22