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J Gen Physiol. 2000 Jan;115(1):81-92.

Charged residues between the selectivity filter and S6 segments contribute to the permeation phenotype of the sodium channel.

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Institute of Molecular Cardiobiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The deep regions of the Na(+) channel pore around the selectivity filter have been studied extensively; however, little is known about the adjacent linkers between the P loops and S6. The presence of conserved charged residues, including five in a row in domain III (D-III), hints that these linkers may play a role in permeation. To characterize the structural topology and function of these linkers, we neutralized the charged residues (from position 411 in D-I and its homologues in D-II, -III, and -IV to the putative start sites of S6) individually by cysteine substitution. Several cysteine mutants displayed enhanced sensitivities to Cd(2+) block relative to wild-type and/or were modifiable by external sulfhydryl-specific methanethiosulfonate reagents when expressed in TSA-201 cells, indicating that these amino acids reside in the permeation pathway. While neutralization of positive charges did not alter single-channel conductance, negative charge neutralizations generally reduced conductance, suggesting that such charges facilitate ion permeation. The electrical distances for Cd(2+) binding to these residues reveal a secondary "dip" into the membrane field of the linkers in domains II and IV. Our findings demonstrate significant functional roles and surprising structural features of these previously unexplored external charged residues.

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