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J Gen Physiol. 2002 Jan;119(1):83-91.

Voltage-controlled gating at the intracellular entrance to a hyperpolarization-activated cation channel.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 220 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Hyperpolarization-activated cation (HCN) channels regulate pacemaking activity in cardiac cells and neurons. Our previous work using the specific HCN channel blocker ZD7288 provided evidence for an intracellular activation gate for these channels because it appears that ZD7288, applied from the intracellular side, can enter and leave HCN channels only at voltages where the activation gate is opened (Shin, K.S., B.S. Rothberg, and G. Yellen. 2001. J. Gen. Physiol. 117:91-101). However, the ZD7288 molecule is larger than the Na(+) or K(+) ions that flow through the open channel. In the present study, we sought to resolve whether the voltage gate at the intracellular entrance to the pore for ZD7288 also can be a gate for permeant ions in HCN channels. Single residues in the putative pore-lining S6 region of an HCN channel (cloned from sea urchin; spHCN) were substituted with cysteines, and the mutants were probed with Cd(2+) applied to the intracellular side of the channel. One mutant, T464C, displayed rapid irreversible block when Cd(2+) was applied to opened channels, with an apparent blocking rate of approximately 3 x 10(5) M(-1)s(-1). The blocking rate was decreased for channels held at more depolarized voltages that close the channels, which is consistent with the Cd(2+) access to this residue being gated from the intracellular side of the channel. 464C channels could be recovered from Cd(2+) inhibition in the presence of a dithiol applied to the intracellular side. The rate of this recovery also was reduced when channels were held at depolarized voltages. Finally, Cd(2+) could be trapped inside channels that were composed of WT/464C tandem-linked subunits, which could otherwise recover spontaneously from Cd(2+) inhibition. Thus, Cd(2+) escape is also gated at the intracellular side of the channel. Together, these results are consistent with a voltage-controlled structure at the intracellular side of the spHCN channel that can gate the flow of cations through the pore.

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