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J Physiol. 2013 May 15;591(Pt 10):2491-507. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.251983. Epub 2013 Feb 18.

Kv3 channel assembly, trafficking and activity are regulated by zinc through different binding sites.

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Zinc, a divalent heavy metal ion and an essential mineral for life, regulates synaptic transmission and neuronal excitability via ion channels. However, its binding sites and regulatory mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we report that Kv3 channel assembly, localization and activity are regulated by zinc through different binding sites. Local perfusion of zinc reversibly reduced spiking frequency of cultured neurons most likely by suppressing Kv3 channels. Indeed, zinc inhibited Kv3.1 channel activity and slowed activation kinetics, independent of its site in the N-terminal T1 domain. Biochemical assays surprisingly identified a novel zinc-binding site in the Kv3.1 C-terminus, critical for channel activity and axonal targeting, but not for the zinc inhibition. Finally, mutagenesis revealed an important role of the junction between the first transmembrane (TM) segment and the first extracellular loop in sensing zinc. Its mutant enabled fast spiking with relative resistance to the zinc inhibition. Therefore, our studies provide novel mechanistic insights into the multifaceted regulation of Kv3 channel activity and localization by divalent heavy metal ions.

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