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Base of the Thumb Domain Modulates Epithelial Sodium Channel Gating*

  • Author Footnotes
    1 Supported by a postdoctoral fellowship award from the American Heart Association.
    Shujie Shi
    Footnotes
    1 Supported by a postdoctoral fellowship award from the American Heart Association.
    Affiliations
    From the Departments of Medicine and
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  • Author Footnotes
    2 Supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program.
    D. Dipon Ghosh
    Footnotes
    2 Supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program.
    Affiliations
    the Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
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  • Sora Okumura
    Affiliations
    From the Departments of Medicine and
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  • Author Footnotes
    3 Supported by a Carl W. Gottschalk Award from the American Society of Nephrology.
    Marcelo D. Carattino
    Footnotes
    3 Supported by a Carl W. Gottschalk Award from the American Society of Nephrology.
    Affiliations
    From the Departments of Medicine and

    Departments of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261 and
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  • Ossama B. Kashlan
    Affiliations
    From the Departments of Medicine and
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  • Shaohu Sheng
    Correspondence
    To whom correspondence should be addressed: Renal-Electrolyte Division, S929 Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace St., Pittsburgh, PA 15261
    Affiliations
    From the Departments of Medicine and
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  • Thomas R. Kleyman
    Affiliations
    From the Departments of Medicine and

    Departments of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261 and
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  • Author Footnotes
    * This work was supported, in whole or in part, by Grants R01 DK051391, R01 DK054354, R01 ES014701, K01 DK078734, and P30 DK079307 from the National Institutes of Health.
    1 Supported by a postdoctoral fellowship award from the American Heart Association.
    2 Supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program.
    3 Supported by a Carl W. Gottschalk Award from the American Society of Nephrology.
Open AccessPublished:March 02, 2011DOI:https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M110.191734
      The activity of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is modulated by multiple external factors, including proteases, cations, anions and shear stress. The resolved crystal structure of acid-sensing ion channel 1 (ASIC1), a structurally related ion channel, and mutagenesis studies suggest that the large extracellular region is involved in recognizing external signals that regulate channel gating. The thumb domain in the extracellular region of ASIC1 has a cylinder-like structure with a loop at its base that is in proximity to the tract connecting the extracellular region to the transmembrane domains. This loop has been proposed to have a role in transmitting proton-induced conformational changes within the extracellular region to the gate. We examined whether loops at the base of the thumb domains within ENaC subunits have a similar role in transmitting conformational changes induced by external Na+ and shear stress. Mutations at selected sites within this loop in each of the subunits altered channel responses to both external Na+ and shear stress. The most robust changes were observed at the site adjacent to a conserved Tyr residue. In the context of channels that have a low open probability due to retention of an inhibitory tract, mutations in the loop activated channels in a subunit-specific manner. Our data suggest that this loop has a role in modulating channel gating in response to external stimuli, and are consistent with the hypothesis that external signals trigger movements within the extracellular regions of ENaC subunits that are transmitted to the channel gate.

      Introduction

      Epithelial Na+ channels (ENaCs)
      The abbreviations used are: ENaC
      epithelial sodium channel
      ASIC
      acid-sensing ion channel
      LSS
      laminar shear stress
      MTSET
      2-(trimethylammonium)ethyl methanethiosulfonate bromide
      Po
      open probability
      RFR
      relative flow response.
      are expressed in the distal segments of the nephron, airway and alveolae, and distal colon, where they mediate Na+ flux across apical membranes of epithelial cells. These channels have important roles in the regulation of airway surface liquid volume and mucociliary clearance, and in the regulation of extracellular fluid volume and blood pressure. ENaCs are composed of three homologous subunits, termed α, β, and γ, which have two hydrophobic transmembrane domains linked by large extracellular regions that include conserved Cys-rich domains (
      • Sheng S.
      • Johnson J.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ).
      Members of the ENaC/degenerin family are regulated by extracellular factors. For ENaC, these factors include proteases, protons, metals (including Na+), Cl, and mechanical forces such as shear stress (
      • Sheng S.
      • Johnson J.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Hughey R.P.
      ,
      • Bhalla V.
      • Hallows K.R.
      ,
      • Collier D.M.
      • Snyder P.M.
      ,
      • Collier D.M.
      • Snyder P.M.
      ,
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Sheng S.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). ENaCs share about 20% identity at the amino acid level with acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), members of the ENaC/degenerin family that are activated by extracellular acidification. The resolved structure of the extracellular and transmembrane portions of ASIC1 has provided clues into mechanisms by which external factors could modulate channel gating (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ,
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Kawate T.
      • Gouaux E.
      ). The extracellular domain of ASIC1 resembles an outstretched hand containing a ball, and has defined subdomains termed wrist, finger, thumb, palm, β-ball, and knuckle. Proton binding was proposed to lead conformational changes within specific extracellular domains, including the thumb domain (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ).
      A loop that links the 9th β sheet in the palm domain with the 4th α helix in the thumb domain (β9-α4 loop) interfaces with residues connecting the extracellular region to the transmembrane domains, where the channel gate resides (Fig. 1) (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ,
      • Kashlan O.B.
      • Adelman J.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Blobner B.M.
      • Zuzek Z.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Grabe M.
      ). Within this loop, a Trp residue has been proposed to couple movements within the extracellular region elicited by acidification to the transmembrane domains (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ,
      • Li T.
      • Yang Y.
      • Canessa C.M.
      ). A mutation of this residue (Trp-288 in chicken ASIC1) disrupted proton-dependent gating of ASIC1a (
      • Li T.
      • Yang Y.
      • Canessa C.M.
      ). A conserved Tyr residue is present at this site in the three ENaC subunits. Channels with a mutation of this Tyr residue in all three subunits exhibited whole cell Na+ currents in Xenopus oocytes that were similar in magnitude to wild-type channels.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      FIGURE 1ENaC model. A model of the base of the the extracellular region of αENaC is shown. The model is based on the resolved structure of ASIC1 (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ) and was generated using Modeler (
      • Eswar N.
      • Webb B.
      • Marti-Renom M.A.
      • Madhusudhan M.S.
      • Eramian D.
      • Shen M.Y.
      • Pieper U.
      • Sali A.
      ). A loop at the base of the thumb domain (β9-α4 loop) is in close proximity to the outer vestibule of the pore. Residues αY418 and αG419 within the β9-α4 loop are highlighted. The box indicates the region where mutations were introduced.
      In contrast to ASICs, ENaCs are active under basal conditions. However, their activity can be modulated by external factors, including external Na+ and laminar shear stress (LSS) (
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Sheng S.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Winarski K.L.
      • Sheng N.
      • Chen J.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Sheng S.
      ,
      • Althaus M.
      • Bogdan R.
      • Clauss W.G.
      • Fronius M.
      ,
      • Satlin L.M.
      • Sheng S.
      • Woda C.B.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Satlin L.M.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Liu W.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). We report that the responses of ENaC to changes in the external [Na+] and to LSS are altered by mutations within the β9-α4 loop. Our results support the hypothesis that external factors, including Na+ and shear stress, induce movements within the periphery of the extracellular regions of ENaC that, in part via the β9-α4 loop at the base of the thumb domain, influence channel gating.

      RESULTS

      ENaC gating is regulated by a variety of external factors including Na+, shear stress, and proteases. Increases in the external [Na+] reduce channel open probability (Po), a process referred to as Na+ self-inhibition (
      • Sheng S.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Sheng N.
      • Chen J.
      • Winarski K.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Boyd C.R.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Sheng S.
      ). Increases in LSS enhance channel activity, reflecting an increase in ENaC Po (
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Sheng S.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Althaus M.
      • Bogdan R.
      • Clauss W.G.
      • Fronius M.
      ,
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Liu W.
      • Hill W.G.
      • Satlin L.M.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). It is likely that the extracellular regions of ENaC subunits have a key role in the channel response to external stimuli, including LSS and Na+. Mutations at defined sites in the extracellular regions have profound effects on Na+ self-inhibition (
      • Collier D.M.
      • Snyder P.M.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Winarski K.L.
      • Sheng N.
      • Chen J.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Sheng S.
      ,
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Sheng N.
      • Chen J.
      • Winarski K.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Boyd C.R.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Sheng S.
      ,
      • Kashlan O.B.
      • Boyd C.R.
      • Argyropoulos C.
      • Okumura S.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Grabe M.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). These results suggest that the binding of Na+ at external site(s) induces movements that are transmitted to the channel gate within the pore.

      Mutations of Residues in the β9-α4 Loop Alter the Na+ Self-inhibition Response

      The moderate sequence identity between the extracellular regions of ENaC subunits and ASIC1 (∼25% identity excluding the finger domain) and the presence of conserved Cys residues that form defined disulfide bonds suggest that main structural features of the extracellular regions of ENaC subunits and ASIC1 are conserved (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). We examined whether mutations in the putative β9-α4 loop of the three ENaC subunits were associated with changes in Na+ self-inhibition. As noted above, a Trp residue in β9-α4 loop of ASIC1 (Trp-288 in chicken ASIC1) has been proposed to couple H+-induced movements within the extracellular region to the transmembrane domain. A Tyr residue is at the homologous position in each of the three ENaC subunits (αY418, βY356, and γY375; see Fig. 2). These residues were mutated to Ala, Cys, or Trp, and the regulation of channels bearing a mutant subunit by external Na+ was examined. The Na+ self-inhibition response was determined in Xenopus oocytes expressing wild-type or mutant channels by clamping the membrane potential at −60 mV, and recording whole cell Na+ currents while rapidly changing the bath solution from a low (1 mm) to a high (110 mm) [Na+]. Following the increase in the bath [Na+], the whole cell current rapidly rises to a peak value, which then falls to a plateau current (see Fig. 3 and Table 1). The ratio of the steady state current to the maximal inward current (Iss/Ipeak) and the time constant of current reduction (τ) were used as measures of Na+ self-inhibition. The wild type channels exhibited an average Iss/Ipeak value of 0.63 ± 0.01 (n = 130; Table 1). The average time constant for Na+ self-inhibition for wild-type channels was 8.0 ± 0.2 s. Substitutions of αY418 with Ala, Cys, or Trp, or βY356 with Trp significantly increased Iss/Ipeak, reflecting a reduction in the Na+ self-inhibition response. No significant changes were observed in the time constant of the Na+ self-inhibition response. Channels with a Trp substitution of all 3 Tyr residues (i.e. αY418WβY356WγY375W) had a Na+ self-inhibition response that was similar to wild type.
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      FIGURE 2Sequence alignment of mouse αENaC, βENaC, γENaC, and chicken ASIC1. Alignment of residues flanking the conserved Tyr in the β9-α4 loop at the base of the thumb domains of the α, β, and γ subunits. A Trp residue is present at the analogous position of ASIC1. The conserved Tyr residues are highlighted in bold. Other residues flanking the Tyr that were studied are indicated by the boxes.
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      FIGURE 3Na+ self-inhibition is repressed by selected mutations of the Tyr residue in the β9-α4 loop. A, representative recordings for Na+ self-inhibition responses of wild type and selected mutant channels are shown. Oocytes were clamped at −60 mV and whole cell currents were continuously recorded while bath [Na+] was rapidly increased from 1 mm (open bar) to 110 mm (closed bar). Experiments were performed with 8 to 14 oocytes expressing mutated channels. B, amiloride-sensitive Iss to Ipeak ratios of mutant and wild-type channels are shown. The peak current (Ipeak) was measured as the maximal inward current immediately after bath exchange. The steady state current (Iss) was measured 40 s after Ipeak. The introduced mutations, Ala, Cys, or Trp, at the conserved Tyr residues are noted. 3W refers αY418WβY356WγY375W channels. C, time constants of current decay (τ) are shown. These were determined by fitting, with an exponential equation, the first 40 s of current decay following the maximal inward current. Dashed lines (B and C) show the averaged wild type values representing 130 observations, which are intended for reference and not for statistical comparisons. The responses of mutant ENaCs were always examined with wild-type channels within the same batch of oocytes to account for variability of Na+ self-inhibition responses within different batches of oocytes. Statistically significant differences between oocytes expressing wild-type channels and mutant channels were labeled with asterisks (*, p < 0.05, determined by one-way ANOVA followed by Bonferroni test (see “Experimental Procedures”)).
      TABLE 1Na+ self-inhibition of wild-type ENaCs and channels with mutations in the β9-α4 loop
      ChannelINaIss/IpeakτOocytes
      μAS
      WT (αβγ)−1.87 ± 0.120.63 ± 0.018.0 ± 0.2130
      αL414Aβγ−1.88 ± 0.290.74 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      9.5 ± 1.211
      αL414Wβγ−2.00 ± 0.270.77 ± 0.01
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      9.0 ± 1.011
      αG415Aβγ−2.79 ± 0.410.73 ± 0.028.7 ± 0.413
      αG415Wβγ−2.62 ± 0.380.75 ± 0.01
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      9.6 ± 0.714
      αG416Aβγ−1.34 ± 0.180.58 ± 0.037.6 ± 0.511
      αG416Wβγ−1.60 ± 0.240.71 ± 0.03
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      10.3 ± 0.8
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11
      αN417Aβγ−0.99 ± 0.100.62 ± 0.028.8 ± 0.716
      αN417Wβγ−2.35 ± 0.400.63 ± 0.028.3 ± 0.712
      αY418Aβγ−2.80 ± 0.550.75 ± 0.03
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11.8 ± 1.411
      αY418Cβγ−2.89 ± 0.480.77 ± 0.01
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      12.3 ± 1.011
      αY418Wβγ−2.76 ± 0.490.75 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11.8 ± 0.911
      αG419Aβγ−1.13 ± 0.12
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      0.54 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      6.4 ± 0.5
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      16
      αG419Cβγ−1.16 ± 0.11
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      0.53 ± 0.03
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      5.6 ± 0.4
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      16
      αG419Wβγ−1.59 ± 0.290.81 ± 0.01
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11.1 ± 0.9
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11
      αD420Aβγ−1.04 ± 0.260.60 ± 0.028.1 ± 0.311
      αD420Wβγ−2.06 ± 0.180.69 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      10.4 ± 0.411
      αβY356Aγ−1.21 ± 0.180.62 ± 0.038.8 ± 0.58
      αβY356Cγ−1.62 ± 0.280.65 ± 0.029.6 ± 0.611
      αβY356Wγ−2.01 ± 0.180.73 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      8.6 ± 0.513
      αβγY375A−1.22 ± 0.170.69 ± 0.0211.1 ± 0.911
      αβγY375C−2.47 ± 0.420.73 ± 0.019.8 ± 1.0
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      13
      αβγY375W−1952 ± 2810.66 ± 0.039.5 ± 1.09
      αβS357Cγ−1.54 ± 0.320.70 ± 0.01
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      9.3 ± 0.814
      αβS357Wγ−2.05 ± 0.410.54 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      5.7 ± 0.713
      αβγS376C−3.49 ± 0.58
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      0.58 ± 0.035.6 ± 0.612
      αβγS376W−0.71 ± 0.07
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      0.38 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      2.9 ± 0.3
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      15
      αY418WβY356WγY375W−4.59 ± 0.600.70 ± 0.018.9 ± 0.612
      αG419WβS357WγS376W−0.82 ± 0.11
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      0.60 ± 0.02
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      6.3 ± 0.913
      a p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      If the β9-α4 loop has a role in transmitting structural changes from the channel periphery to the gate, substitutions of residues at sites adjacent to the conserved Tyr residue in β9-α4 loop might also alter the Na+ self-inhibition response. This is what we observed (FIGURE 4, FIGURE 5). Substitutions of αL414 with Ala or Trp, and substitutions of αG415, αG416, αG419, and αD420 with Trp significantly increased Iss/Ipeak (FIGURE 4, FIGURE 5). Significant increases in the time constant of the Na+ self-inhibition response were observed with the αG416W and αG419W mutants. Several mutants exhibited an enhanced Na+ self-inhibition response (reduced Iss/Ipeak and τ), including αG419A and αG419C.
      Figure thumbnail gr5
      FIGURE 5Na+ self-inhibition is altered by mutations of αG419 or its corresponding residues in the β and γ subunits. A, representative recordings for Na+ self-inhibition responses of wild type and selected mutant channels are shown. Experiments were performed with 10 to 18 oocytes expressing mutated channels. B, amiloride-sensitive Iss to Ipeak ratios of mutant and wild-type channels are shown. The introduced mutations, Ala, Cys, or Trp, at the different residues are noted. 3W refers αG419WβS357WγS376W channels. C, time constants of current decay (τ) are shown. Dashed lines (B and C) show the averaged wild-type values representing 130 observations, which are intended for reference and not for statistical comparisons. Significant differences between oocytes expressing wild type channels and mutant channels were labeled with asterisks (*, p < 0.05).
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      FIGURE 4Na+ self-inhibition is repressed by selected mutations flanking αY418. A, representative recordings for Na+ self-inhibition responses of wild type and selected mutant channels are shown. Experiments were performed with 8 to 13 oocytes expressing mutated channels. B, amiloride-sensitive Iss to Ipeak ratios of mutant and wild type channels are shown. The introduced mutations, Ala or Trp, at the different residues are noted. C, time constants of current decay (τ) are shown. Dashed lines (B and C) show the averaged wild-type values representing 130 observations, which are intended for reference and not for statistical comparisons. Significant differences between oocytes expressing wild-type channels and mutant channels were labeled with asterisks (*, p < 0.05).
      The loss of Na+ self-inhibition was most pronounced with the αG419W mutant. We examined whether substitutions at the analogous sites in the β and γ subunits (βS357 and γS376) affected the Na+ self-inhibition response (Fig. 5). Interestingly, we observed an enhanced Na+ self-inhibition (reduced Iss/Ipeak) with the βS357W and γS376W mutants. A notably increased rate of Na+ self-inhibition (lower τ) was observed with γS376W. Reduced Na+ self-inhibition (higher Iss/Ipeak and τ) was observed with βS357C. Channels with Trp substitutions of the 3 residues (αG419WβS357WγS376W) had a Na+ self-inhibition response that was modestly enhanced (lower Iss/Ipeak) relative to wild type.

      Mutations of Residues in the β9-α4 Loop Alter the Channel Response to Shear Stress

      In addition to responding to changes in the external [Na+], ENaCs respond to LSS with an increase in activity that reflects an increase in channel Po (
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Sheng S.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Althaus M.
      • Bogdan R.
      • Clauss W.G.
      • Fronius M.
      ,
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Liu W.
      • Hill W.G.
      • Satlin L.M.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). If mechanical forces such as shear stress induces conformational changes in the periphery of the extracellular domains that are transmitted to the channel gate, mutations within the β9-α4 loop of ENaC subunits should alter the channel response to shear stress. This is what we have observed. Oocytes expressing wild type or mutant channels were subjected to LSS, as described under “Experimental Procedures.” We determined both the magnitude of the increase in Na+ current, as well as the time constant for the increase in Na+ current (τ) in response to LSS by applying fluid via a vertical pipette placed adjacent to the oocyte. Whole cell Na+ currents mediated by wild-type channels increased by 2.16 ± 0.06-fold with a τ of 8.4 ± 0.2 s, when subjected to vertical flow at a rate of 1.6 ml/min (Fig. 6 and Table 2 (n = 125)). The response to LSS was significantly enhanced in channels with substitutions of the conserved Tyr residue in the β9-α4 loop of the α subunit (αY418C and αY418W). Substitutions of the conserved Tyr residue in the β and γ subunits (βY356 and γY375) did not alter channel response to LSS. Channels with substitutions of all three Tyr residues (αY418WβY356WγY375W) showed a significantly enhanced activation in response to shear stress compared with wild type, whereas the rate of the response was modestly reduced, as indicated by a higher τ value when compared with wild-type channels.
      Figure thumbnail gr6
      FIGURE 6Shear stress-mediated channel activation is enhanced by selected mutations of the Tyr residue in the β9-α4 loop. A, representative recordings of responses to LSS of wild type and selected mutant channels are shown. Oocytes expressing wild type channels or mutant channels were subjected to LSS generated through fluid-jet perfusion via a vertical pipette, which was initiated at t = 0. Experiments were performed with 9–23 oocytes expressing mutant channels. B, relative response of whole cell Na+ currents to LSS. To assess the magnitude of the flow response, the peak response of the whole cell benzamil-sensitive Na+ current following the initiation of LSS (ILSS) was normalized to the basal benzamil-sensitive current prior to initiation of LSS (Ibasal). The ILSS/Ibasal values were normalized to the ILSS/Ibasal values of wild-type ENaC from the same batch (relative flow response (RFR)). The introduced mutations, Ala, Cys, or Trp, at the different residues are noted. 3W refers αY418WβY356WγY375W channels. The ILSS/Ibasal for wild-type channels was 2.16 ± 0.06 (n = 125). C, time constants of channel activation by LSS. τ values were determined by fitting the first 40 s of the current increase following the initiation of vertical perfusion with an exponential equation as described under “Experimental Procedures.” Dashed lines (B and C) show the averaged wild-type values representing 125 observations, which are intended for reference and not for statistical comparisons. The responses of mutants were always examined with wild type channels within the same batch of oocytes to account for variability of response to shear stress within different batches of oocytes. Significant changes in the magnitude of the shear stress response of mutant channels, compared with wild type are noted (*, p < 0.05).
      TABLE 2Activation of wild-type ENaCs and channels with mutations in the β9-α4 loop by LSS
      ChannelRFRτ (s)Oocytes
      WT (αβγ)1.00 ± 0.028.4 ± 0.2125
      αL414Wβγ1.20 ± 0.098.5 ± 0.717
      αG415Wβγ1.22 ± 0.108.3 ± 1.014
      αG416Wβγ1.40 ± 0.13
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      6.9 ± 0.813
      αN417Wβγ1.30 ± 0.11
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      7.2 ± 0.918
      αY418Aβγ1.30 ± 0.139.9 ± 1.212
      αY418Cβγ1.41 ± 0.16
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11.0 ± 1.111
      αY418Wβγ1.30 ± 0.07
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      8.3 ± 0.623
      αG419Aβγ1.07 ± 0.1010.8 ± 0.7
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      11
      αG419Cβγ1.12 ± 0.119.3 ± 0.411
      αG419Wβγ1.54 ± 0.15
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      7.8 ± 0.515
      αD420Wβγ1.25 ± 0.079.1 ± 1.016
      αβY356Aγ1.20 ± 0.109.4 ± 0.613
      αβY356Cγ1.18 ± 0.1010.3 ± 0.811
      αβY356Wγ1.29 ± 0.1412.9 ± 1.49
      αβγY375A1.07 ± 0.0611.5 ± 0.813
      αβγY375C1.16 ± 0.0910.6 ± 0.713
      αβγY375W1.21 ± 0.0710.2 ± 0.814
      αβS357Cγ1.56 ± 0.14
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      10.1 ± 0.914
      αβS357Wγ1.05 ± 0.0811.4 ± 1.110
      αβγS376C0.93 ± 0.0610.9 ± 1.013
      αβγS376W0.85 ± 0.0414.5 ± 1.8
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      12
      αY418WβY356WγY375W1.54 ± 0.11
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      9.5 ± 0.6
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      16
      αG419WβS357WγS376W0.91 ± 0.0810.3 ± 0.6
      p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      15
      a p < 0.05 versus WT channels from the same batch.
      We examined whether substitutions of residues at sites adjacent to the conserved Tyr residue in the β9-α4 loop altered the channel response to LSS. αG416W, αN417W, and αG419W showed a significant increase in the magnitude of the response to LSS, when compared with wild type channels (FIGURE 7, FIGURE 8). The enhanced flow response was most pronounced with the αG419W mutant. We examined whether substitutions at the analogous sites in the β and γ subunits (βS357 and γS376) affected the shear stress response (Fig. 8). βS357C exhibited a significant increase in Na+ current in response to LSS when compared with wild type. In contrast, the rate of the increase in current in response to shear stress was significantly reduced with γS376W mutant. Interestingly, channels with Trp substitution of the three residues (αG419WβS357WγS376W) responded to shear stress with an increase in current that was similar to wild type, although the time constant for the increase in current was modestly increased.
      Figure thumbnail gr8
      FIGURE 8Shear stress response is enhanced by mutations of αG419 or its corresponding residues in the β and γ subunits. A, representative recordings for responses to LSS of wild type and selected mutant channels are shown. Experiments were performed with 10 to 15 oocytes expressing mutated channels. B, relative whole cell Na+ current responses (ILSS/Ibasal) of mutant and wild-type channels to LSS are shown. The ILSS/Ibasal values of the mutants were normalized to the ILSS/Ibasal values of wild-type ENaC from the same batch. The introduced Ala, Cys, or Trp mutations at the different residues are noted. 3W refers αG419WβS357WγS376W channels. C, time constants of current decay (τ) are shown. Dashed lines (B and C) show the averaged wild-type values representing 125 observations, which are intended for reference and not for statistical comparisons. Significant differences between oocytes expressing wild-type channels and mutant channels were labeled with asterisks (*, p < 0.05).
      Figure thumbnail gr7
      FIGURE 7Shear stress-mediated channel activation is enhanced by selected mutations flanking αY418. A, representative recordings for responses to LSS of wild type and selected mutant channels are shown. Experiments were performed with 13 to 18 oocytes expressing mutated channels. B, relative whole cell Na+ current responses (ILSS/Ibasal) of mutant and wild-type channels to LSS are shown. The ILSS/Ibasal values of mutants were normalized to the ILSS/Ibasal values of wild-type ENaC from the same batch. The introduced Trp mutations at the different residues are noted. C, time constants of current decay (τ) are shown. Dashed lines (B and C) show the averaged wild-type values representing 125 observations, which are intended for reference and not for statistical comparisons. Significant differences between oocytes expressing wild-type channels and mutant channels were labeled with asterisks (*, p < 0.05).
      The introduction of Cys residues at sites in the β9-α4 loop allows us to examine whether Cys-reactive reagents, such as MTSET, alters the channel's response to LSS. Channels with Cys substitutions at αY418 and αG419 exhibited similar responses to LSS prior to and following treatment with MTSET. Similar results were observed with Cys mutants at the analogous sites in the β and γ subunits (βY356, γY375, and γS376) with the exception of βS357, where the flow response was significantly reduced following MTSET treatment (Fig. 9). These results suggest that the Cys side chain is accessible to MTSET and that modification of the introduced Cys blunts the flow response. It is interesting to note that when a bulky residue was substituted at this site (βS357W), the magnitude of the response to flow was similar to wild-type channels. Basal amiloride-sensitive currents of wild type and mutant channels were not altered by MTSET (Fig. 9C).
      Figure thumbnail gr9
      FIGURE 9MTSET inhibits the shear stress response of βS357C channels. A, representative recordings for responses to LSS of wild type and selected mutant channels prior to (control) and following treatment with MTSET are shown. Experiments were performed with 10–11 oocytes expressing mutated channels and 30 oocytes expressing wild-type channels. B, relative whole cell Na+ current responses (ILSS/Ibasal) of mutant and wild-type channels to shear stress are shown prior to (open bars) and following (closed bars) treatment with MTSET. The ILSS/Ibasal values of the mutants were normalized to the ILSS/Ibasal values of wild-type ENaC from the same batch prior to MTSET treatment. Significant changes in the RFR after treatment with 1 mm MTSET were labeled with asterisks (*, p < 0.05). C, basal amiloride sensitive currents (μA) prior to (open bars) and following (closed bars) treatment with MTSET.
      Channels with αR205A and αR231A mutations lack α subunit proteolytic processing by furin (
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Hughey R.P.
      ,
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Kinlough C.L.
      • Harkleroad K.L.
      • Tong Q.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Johnson J.P.
      • Stockand J.D.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). These mutants retain an intrinsic peripheral inhibitory tract, have a very low Po in the presence of external Na+ and exhibit a markedly enhanced Na+ self-inhibition response when compared with wild type channels (Fig. 10 and Ref.
      • Sheng S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). We have proposed that movements within the periphery of the α subunit in the presence of external Na+ that enhance Po are prevented by the inhibitory tract (
      • Kashlan O.B.
      • Adelman J.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Blobner B.M.
      • Zuzek Z.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Grabe M.
      ). We examined whether αR205A, R231A channels with selected mutations in the β9-α4 loop relieve channel inhibition by external Na+. αR205A, R231A channels with a αY418C mutation showed a marked loss in the Na+ self-inhibition response, when compared with αR205A, R231A channels.
      Figure thumbnail gr10
      FIGURE 10Na+ self-inhibition response of channels with mutations of the α subunit furin cleavage sites is repressed by Cys mutations of either αY418 or γY375. A, representative recordings of the Na+ self-inhibition responses of wild type channels, α furin mutant (αR205A, R231A (αR/A)) channels, and channels with the α furin mutant and a Cys mutation of the conserved Tyr in the β9-α4 loop at the base of the thumb domain. Experiments were performed with 13–23 oocytes expressing mutated channels and 24 oocytes expressing wild-type channels. B, amiloride-sensitive Iss to Ipeak ratios of wild type and mutant channels are shown. The introduced mutations at the different residues are noted. C, time constants of current decay (τ) are shown. Significant differences between oocytes expressing wild-type channels and mutant channels were labeled with an asterisk (*, p < 0.05). Significant differences between oocytes expressing the α furin mutant channel (αR205A, R231A (αR/A)) and the other mutant channels were labeled with a double asterisk (**, p < 0.05).
      In addition to retaining the α subunit inhibitory tract, αR205A, R231A channels also retain the γ subunit inhibitory tract (
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Hughey R.P.
      ,
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Sheng S.
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Weisz O.A.
      • Pilewski J.M.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). We observed that αR205A, R231A channels with a γY375C mutation also exhibited a significant reduction in the Na+ self-inhibition response, when compared with αR205A, R231A channels. In contrast, αR205A, R231A channels with a βY356C mutation retained the markedly enhanced Na+ self-inhibition response.

      DISCUSSION

      The ENaC/degenerin family is composed of ion channels that are regulated by external factors. Limited information is available regarding the sites where external factors interact with these channels, and the subsequent structural transitions that lead to changes in channel gating. In this regard, sites within the more peripheral regions of ASIC subunits have been identified as putative proton binding sites. The resolved structure of ASIC1 revealed a potential mechanism by which movements within the periphery induced by H+ binding could be translated to movements within the transmembrane domains and gate, via the base of the thumb (i.e. the β9-α4 loop) (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ).
      The inhibition of ENaC by external Na+ and its activation by shear stress reflect changes in channel Po (
      • Sheng S.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Sheng N.
      • Chen J.
      • Winarski K.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Boyd C.R.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Sheng S.
      ). If these factors (i.e. external Na+ and shear stress) induce structural changes within the channel periphery, and if the β9-α4 loop has a role in transmitting these structural changes to the gate, mutations within this loop should alter the channel response to external Na+ and shear stress in a similar manner (see Fig. 11). This is what we observed. For the mutants analyzed, we observed a significant correlation between changes in Na+ self-inhibition and the channel response to shear stress (Fig. 11). Mutants that exhibited a reduced Na+ self-inhibition response (higher Iss/Ipeak reflecting an increase in channel Po in the presence of external Na+ compared with wild type) also had an enhanced response to shear stress (reflecting an increased channel Po in the presence of shear stress).
      Figure thumbnail gr11
      FIGURE 11Relationship between the Na+ self-inhibition response and the relative flow response. The Iss/Ipeak values from , , and were plotted against the RFR values from , , and . Each mutant (as well as wild type) channel is represented as an open circle in the figure. The solid line was obtained from linear fitting of all data points (n = 24). Correlation coefficient (r = 0.71; r2 = 0.48) was statistically significant (p < 0.001).
      Trp-288 within the β9-α4 loop of ASIC1 was suggested to have a key role in transmitting structural changes in response to H+ binding to the gate, based on its proximity to the external portions of the transmembrane regions within the resolved ASIC1 structure (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ). Recent mutagenesis studies provided evidence in support of the functional role of Trp-288 in H+-dependent gating of ASIC1 (
      • Li T.
      • Yang Y.
      • Canessa C.M.
      ). A Tyr residue is present at the base of the thumb domain of the three mouse ENaC subunits at the homologous position of ASIC1 Trp-288 (Fig. 2). We found that channels with mutations of these conserved Tyr residues in the α and β subunits (αY418 and βY356) exhibited an altered response to external Na+ and/or LSS. Furthermore, channels with mutations in residues flanking the conserved Tyr in the α subunit (αL414 to αD420) also exhibited an altered response to external Na+ and/or shear stress, when compared with wild-type channels. The most robust changes in the response to external Na+ and shear stress were noted with αG419 mutants. Channels with substitutions at the residues homologous to αG419 in the β and γ subunits (βS357 and γS376) also exhibited significant changes in their response to external Na+ and shear stress, when compared with wild-type channels. Taken together, these results suggest that the base of the thumb domain of ENaC has a role in modifying channel gating properties in response to Na+ and LSS. We cannot exclude the possibility that some mutations we examined indirectly altered the channel response to external Na+ or shear stress. For example, selected mutants could directly or indirectly alter Na+ binding.
      We further examined whether selected mutations in the β9-α4 loop would affect the properties of channels that have an intrinsically low Po due to the retention of inhibitory tracts in the α and γ subunits. Interestingly, mutations in the β9-α4 loop affected the response to external Na+ in a subunit specific manner. Channels with a Cys substitution of the conserved Tyr residue in α subunit (αY418C) or γ subunit (γY375C) blunted the inhibition by external Na+ (Fig. 10). A Cys mutation of the corresponding Tyr residue in β subunit (βY356C) had no effect. We recently proposed that the α subunit inhibitory tract interacts with residues in both the finger and thumb domains, limiting the relative movements of the domains and reducing channel Po in the presence of external Na+ (
      • Kashlan O.B.
      • Adelman J.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Blobner B.M.
      • Zuzek Z.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Grabe M.
      ). Our results are consistent with the notion that limiting relative movements of finger and thumb domains may limit transitions in the pore to an open state (and/or enhance transitions to a closed state), and that the base of the thumb has a role in transmitting structural information from the channel periphery to the pore in a subunit-specific manner.
      There are 16 conserved Cys residues in the extracellular regions of the three ENaC subunits. One of these conserved Cys residues (αC421, βC359, and γC378) is immediately distal to the tract of residues (αL414-αD420) that we examined at the base of the thumb by scanning mutagenesis. The resolved ASIC1 structure, and our previous work suggest that this Cys residue forms a disulfide bond with the most distal of the conserved extracellular Cys residues (
      • Jasti J.
      • Furukawa H.
      • Gonzales E.B.
      • Gouaux E.
      ,
      • Sheng S.
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ). We previous reported that substitutions of αC421, βC359, and γC378 resulted in channels with a reduced Na+ self-inhibition response (
      • Sheng S.
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ).
      Most mutations in the β9-α4 loop of ENaC subunits that enhanced the Na+ self-inhibition response were associated with lower baseline amiloride-sensitive inward Na+ currents when compared with wild-type channels (αG419A, αG419C, γS376W, and αG419WβS357W γS376W; see Table 1). Whereas channels with a reduced Na+ self-inhibition response would be predicted to exhibit a higher Po, our inability to detect a significant difference in basal amiloride-sensitive Na+ currents may reflect the overall variability in levels of current expression among oocytes (Table 1). These results are consistent with those reported by Li et al. (
      • Li T.
      • Yang Y.
      • Canessa C.M.
      ), where channels with mutations in the conserved Tyr residue in the β9-α4 loop of all three ENaC subunits expressed amiloride-sensitive inward currents that were similar in magnitude to wild-type channels.
      We also observed subunit specificity in the response of channels bearing mutations in the β9-α4 loops. Substitutions at analogous sites in the three subunits did not result in equivalent changes in the response to external Na+ and to shear stress. For example, Na+ self-inhibition was repressed by a Trp mutation of αG419 (i.e. increased Iss/Ipeak), but was enhanced by Trp mutations at the corresponding residue in the γ subunit (Fig. 5). A Cys mutation at position 419 in the α subunit enhanced Na+ self-inhibition, but a mutation in the β subunit repressed Na+ self-inhibition. We have previously reported subunit specificity in the response of channels to external Na+ and in the activation of channels by proteases (
      • Sheng S.
      • Bruns J.B.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ,
      • Maarouf A.B.
      • Sheng N.
      • Chen J.
      • Winarski K.L.
      • Okumura S.
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Boyd C.R.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      • Sheng S.
      ,
      • Carattino M.D.
      • Hughey R.P.
      • Kleyman T.R.
      ).
      It was interesting to note that substitutions in the thumb region were primarily associated with increases in Iss/Ipeak or in the response to shear stress, likely reflecting increases in channel Po in response to external factors. However, a few mutants exhibited a decrease in Iss/Ipeak or in the shear stress response, reflecting a decrease in channel Po.
      There are three Gly residues in the tract flanking the residue Tyr-418 in the α subunit. Gly residues would be expected to provide flexibility within the β9-α4 loop, and it is notable that substitutions with Trp residues at these sites reduced the channels response to external Na+, and at two sites increased the channels response to shear stress.
      In summary, substitutions at select sites within the β9-α4 loop at the base of the thumb domain were associated with changes in the response to external Na+ and LSS. Our results support the hypothesis that external factors, such Na+ and shear stress, are sensed within the periphery of the extracellular domains and affect ENaC gating, in part, though conformational changes that are transmitted to the pore.

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