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Am J Physiol. 1991 Nov;261(5 Pt 1):C882-8.

Actin filaments regulate epithelial Na+ channel activity.

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  • 1Renal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


The functional role of the cytoskeleton in the control of ion channel activity is unknown. In the present study, immunocolocalization of Na+ channels with specific antibodies and fluorescein isothiocyanate-phalloidin to stain the cortical cytoskeleton indicates that actin is always present in close proximity to apical Na+ channels in A6 cells. The patch-clamp technique was used to assess the effect of cortical actin networks on apical Na+ channels in these A6 epithelial cells. The actin filament disrupter, cytochalasin D (5 micrograms/ml), induced Na+ channel activity in cell-attached patches within 5 min of addition. Cytochalasin D also induced and/or increased Na+ channel activity in 90% of excised patches tested within 2 min. Addition of short actin filaments (greater than 5 microM) to excised patches also induced channel activity. This effect was enhanced by addition of ATP and/or cytochalasin D. The effect of actin on Na+ channel activity was reversed by addition of the G actin-binding protein DNase I or completely prevented by treatment of the excised patches with this enzyme. Addition of the actin-binding protein, filamin, reversibly inhibited both spontaneous and actin-induced Na+ channels. Thus actin filament networks, achieved by either depolymerizing endogenous actin filaments by treatment with cytochalasin D, the addition of exogenous short actin filaments plus ATP, or actin plus cytochalasin D, regulate apical Na+ channel activity. This conclusion was supported by the observation that the addition of short actin filaments in the form of actin-gelsolin complexes in molar ratios less than 8:1 was also effective in activating Na+ channels. We have thus demonstrated a functional role for the cortical actin network in the regulation of epithelial Na+ channels that may complement a structural role for membrane protein targetting and assembly.

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