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Biophys J. 2008 Nov 15;95(10):4668-75. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.108.137158. Epub 2008 Jul 25.

Insights into the ClC-4 transport mechanism from studies of Zn2+ inhibition.

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  • 1Membrane Transport Biophysics Unit, Porter Neuroscience Research Center, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The CLC family of chloride channels and transporters is a functionally diverse group of proteins important in a wide range of physiological processes. ClC-4 and ClC-5 are localized to endosomes and seem to play roles in the acidification of these compartments. These proteins were recently shown to function as Cl(-)/H(+) antiporters. However, relatively little is known about the detailed mechanism of CLC-mediated Cl(-)/H(+) antiport, especially for mammalian isoforms. We attempted to identify molecular tools that might be useful in probing structure-function relationships in these proteins. Here, we record currents from human ClC-4 (hClC-4) expressed in Xenopus oocytes, and find that Zn(2+) inhibits these currents, with an apparent affinity of approximately 50 microM. Although Cd(2+) has a similar effect, Co(2+) and Mn(2+) do not inhibit hClC-4 currents. In contrast, the effect of Zn(2+) on the ClC-0 channel, Zn(2+)-mediated inhibition of hClC-4 is minimally voltage-dependent, suggesting an extracellular binding site for the ion. Nine candidate external residues were tested; only mutations of three consecutive histidine residues, located in a single extracellular loop, significantly reduced the effect of Zn(2+), with one of these making a larger contribution than the other two. An analogous tri-His sequence is absent from ClC-0, suggesting a fundamentally different inhibitory mechanism for the ion on hClC-4. Manipulations that alter transport properties of hClC-4, varying permeant ions as well as mutating the "gating glutamate", dramatically affect Zn(2+) inhibition, suggesting the involvement of a heretofore unexplored part of the protein in the transport process.

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