- The degenerin/epithelial sodium channel (DEG/ENaC) superfamily of ion channels contains subfamilies with diverse functions that are fundamental to many physiological and pathological processes, ranging from synaptic transmission to epileptogenesis. The absence in mammals of some DEG/ENaCs subfamily orthologues such as FMRFamide peptide–activated sodium channels (FaNaCs), which have been identified only in mollusks, indicates that the various subfamilies diverged early in evolution. We recently reported that the nonproton agonist 2-guanidine-4-methylquinazoline (GMQ) activates acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), a DEG/ENaC subfamily mainly in mammals, in the absence of acidosis.
- P2X receptors are ATP-gated trimeric channels with important roles in diverse pathophysiological functions. A detailed understanding of the mechanism underlying the gating process of these receptors is thus fundamentally important and may open new therapeutic avenues. The left flipper (LF) domain of the P2X receptors is a flexible loop structure, and its coordinated motions together with the dorsal fin (DF) domain are crucial for the channel gating of the P2X receptors. However, the mechanism underlying the crucial role of the LF domain in the channel gating remains obscure.
- Significant progress has been made in understanding the roles of crucial residues/motifs in the channel function of P2X receptors during the pre-structure era. The recent structural determination of P2X receptors allows us to reevaluate the role of those residues/motifs. Residues Arg-309 and Asp-85 (rat P2X4 numbering) are highly conserved throughout the P2X family and were involved in loss-of-function polymorphism in human P2X receptors. Previous studies proposed that they participated in direct ATP binding.
- FMRFamide (Phe-Met-Arg-Phe-NH2)-activated sodium channel (FaNaC) is an amiloride-sensitive sodium channel activated by endogenous tetrapeptide in invertebrates, and belongs to the epithelial sodium channel/degenerin (ENaC/DEG) superfamily. The ENaC/DEG superfamily differs markedly in its means of activation, such as spontaneously opening or gating by mechanical stimuli or tissue acidosis. Recently, it has been observed that a number of ENaC/DEG channels can be activated by small molecules or peptides, indicating that the ligand-gating may be an important feature of this superfamily.