- The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) mediates Na+ transport in several epithelia, including the aldosterone-sensitive distal nephron, distal colon, and biliary epithelium. Numerous factors regulate ENaC activity, including extracellular ligands, post-translational modifications, and membrane-resident lipids. However, ENaC regulation by bile acids and conjugated bilirubin, metabolites that are abundant in the biliary tree and intestinal tract and are sometimes elevated in the urine of individuals with advanced liver disease, remains poorly understood.
- Epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) maturation and activation require proteolysis of both the α and γ subunits. Cleavage at multiple sites in the finger domain of each subunit liberates their autoinhibitory tracts. Synthetic peptides derived from the proteolytically released fragments inhibit the channel, likely by reconstituting key interactions removed by the proteolysis. We previously showed that a peptide derived from the α subunit's autoinhibitory sequence (α-8) binds at the α subunit's finger–thumb domain interface.
- The epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) is a member of the ENaC/degenerin family of ion channels. In the structure of a related family member, the “thumb” domain’s base interacts with the pore, and its tip interacts with the divergent “finger” domain. Between the base and tip, the thumb domain is characterized by a conserved five-rung disulfide ladder holding together two anti-parallel α helices. The ENaC α and γ subunits’ finger domains harbor autoinhibitory tracts that can be proteolytically liberated to activate the channel and also host an ENaC-specific pair of cysteines.