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J Biol Chem. 1997 Nov 21;272(47):29778-83.

A modulatory subunit of acid sensing ion channels in brain and dorsal root ganglion cells.

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  • 1Institut de Pharmacologie Mol├ęculaire et Cellulaire, CNRS-UPR 411, 660 route des Lucioles, Sophia Antipolis, 06560 Valbonne, France.


MDEG1 is a cation channel expressed in brain that belongs to the degenerin/epithelial Na+ channel superfamily. It is activated by the same mutations which cause neurodegeneration in Caenorhabditis elegans if present in the degenerins DEG-1, MEC-4, and MEC-10. MDEG1 shares 67% sequence identity with the recently cloned proton-gated cation channel ASIC (acid sensing ion channel), a new member of the family which is present in brain and in sensory neurons. We have now identified MDEG1 as a proton-gated channel with properties different from those of ASIC. MDEG1 requires more acidic pH values for activation and has slower inactivation kinetics. In addition, we have cloned from mouse and rat brain a splice variant form of the MDEG1 channel which differs in the first 236 amino acids, including the first transmembrane region. This new membrane protein, which has been called MDEG2, is expressed in both brain and sensory neurons. MDEG2 is activated neither by mutations that bring neurodegeneration once introduced in C. elegans degenerins nor by low pH. However, it can associate both with MDEG1 and another recently cloned H+-activated channel DRASIC to form heteropolymers which display different kinetics, pH dependences, and ion selectivities. Of particular interest is the subunit combination specific for sensory neurons, MDEG2/DRASIC. In response to a drop in pH, it gives rise to a biphasic current with a sustained current which discriminates poorly between Na+ and K+, like the native H+-gated current recorded in dorsal root ganglion cells. This sustained current is thought to be required for the tonic sensation of pain caused by acids.

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