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The Journal of General Physiology
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 134  |  Issue: 3  |  Page No.: 243 - 258

Proton inhibition of unitary currents of vanilloid receptors

B Liu, J Yao, Y Wang, H Li and F. Qin    

Abstract:

Protons, which are released during inflammation and injury, regulate many receptors and ion channels involved in pain transduction, including capsaicin channels (transient receptor potential vanilloid receptors 1). Whereas extracellular acidification both sensitizes and directly activates the channel, it also causes concomitant reduction of the unitary current amplitudes. Here, we investigate the mechanisms and molecular basis of this inhibitory effect of protons on channel conductance. Single-channel recordings showed that the unitary current amplitudes decreased with extracellular pH in a dose-dependent manner, consistent with a model in which protons bind to a site within the channel with an apparent pKa of ~6. The inhibition was voltage dependent, ~65% at –60 mV and 37% at +60 mV when pH was reduced from 7.4 to 5.5. The unitary current amplitudes reached saturation at [K+] ≥ 1 M, and notably the maximum amplitudes did not converge with different pHs, inconsistent with a blockade model based on surface charge screening or competitive inhibition of permeating ions. Mutagenesis experiments uncovered two acidic residues critical for proton inhibition, one located at the pore entrance and the other on the pore helix. Based on homology to the KcsA structure, the two acidic residues, along with another basic residue also on the pore helix, could form a triad interacting with each other through extensive hydrogen bonds and electrostatic contacts, suggesting that protons may mediate the interactions between the selectivity filter and pore helix, thereby altering the local structure in the filter region and consequently the conductance of the channel.

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