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Plant Physiol. 2003 Jul;132(3):1353-61.

Plants do it differently. A new basis for potassium/sodium selectivity in the pore of an ion channel.

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Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Plant Science, University of Connecticut, Connecticut 06269-4163, USA.


Understanding of the molecular architecture necessary for selective K(+) permeation through the pore of ion channels is based primarily on analysis of the crystal structure of the bacterial K(+) channel KcsA, and structure:function studies of cloned animal K(+) channels. Little is known about the conduction properties of a large family of plant proteins with structural similarities to cloned animal cyclic nucleotide-gated channels (CNGCs). Animal CNGCs are nonselective cation channels that do not discriminate between Na(+) and K(+) permeation. These channels all have the same triplet of amino acids in the channel pore ion selectivity filter, and this sequence is different from that of the selectivity filter found in K(+)-selective channels. Plant CNGCs have unique pore selectivity filters; unlike those found in any other family of channels. At present, the significance of the unique pore selectivity filters of plant CNGCs, with regard to discrimination between Na(+) and K(+) permeation is unresolved. Here, we present an electrophysiological analysis of several members of this protein family; identifying the first cloned plant channel (AtCNGC1) that conducts Na(+). Another member of this ion channel family (AtCNGC2) is shown to have a selectivity filter that provides a heretofore unknown molecular basis for discrimination between K(+) and Na(+) permeation. Specific amino acids within the AtCNGC2 pore selectivity filter (Asn-416, Asp-417) are demonstrated to facilitate K(+) over Na(+) conductance. The selectivity filter of AtCNGC2 represents an alternative mechanism to the well-known GYG amino acid triplet of K(+) channels that has been identified as the critical basis for K(+) over Na(+) permeation through the pore of ion channels.

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