- 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.
- 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.