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Friday 01 August 2003

A new subunit of the epithelial Na+ channel identifies regions involved in Na+ self-inhibition.

By: Babini E, Geisler HS, Siba M, Grunder S.

J Biol Chem 2003 Aug 1;278(31):28418-26

The epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) is the apical entry pathway for Na+ in many Na+-reabsorbing epithelia. ENaC is a heterotetrameric protein composed of homologous alpha, beta, and gamma subunits. Mutations in ENaC cause severe hypertension or salt wasting in humans; and consequently, ENaC activity is tightly controlled. According to the concept of Na+ self-inhibition, the extracellular Na+ ion itself can reduce ENaC activity. The molecular basis for Na+ self-inhibition is unknown. Here, we describe cloning of a new ENaC subunit from Xenopus laevis (epsilonxENaC). epsilonxENaC can replace alphaxENaC and formed functional, highly selective, amiloride-sensitive Na+ channels when coexpressed with betaxENaC and gammaxENaC. Channels containing epsilonxENaC showed strong inhibition by extracellular Na+. This Na+ self-inhibition was significantly slower than for alphaxENaC-containing channels. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we show that the proximal part of the large extracellular domain controls the speed of self-inhibition. This suggests that this region is involved in conformational changes during Na+ self-inhibition.

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