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J Gen Physiol. 2003 Oct;122(4):389-405. Epub 2003 Sep 15.

Single-channel SCAM identifies pore-lining residues in the first extracellular loop and first transmembrane domains of Cx46 hemichannels.

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Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, New York, NY 10461, USA.


Gap junction (GJ) channels provide an important pathway for direct intercellular transmission of signaling molecules. Previously we showed that fixed negative charges in the first extracellular loop domain (E1) strongly influence charge selectivity, conductance, and rectification of channels and hemichannels formed of Cx46. Here, using excised patches containing Cx46 hemichannels, we applied the substituted cysteine accessibility method (SCAM) at the single channel level to residues in E1 to determine if they are pore-lining. We demonstrate residues D51, G46, and E43 at the amino end of E1 are accessible to modification in open hemichannels to positively and negatively charged methanethiosulfonate (MTS) reagents added to cytoplasmic or extracellular sides. Positional effects of modification along the length of the pore and opposing effects of oppositely charged modifying reagents on hemichannel conductance and rectification are consistent with placement in the channel pore and indicate a dominant electrostatic influence of the side chains of accessible residues on ion fluxes. Hemichannels modified by MTS-EA+, MTS-ET+, or MTS-ES- were refractory to further modification and effects of substitutions with positively charged residues that electrostatically mimicked those caused by modification with the positively charged MTS reagents were similar, indicating all six subunits were likely modified. The large reductions in conductance caused by MTS-ET+ were visible as stepwise reductions in single-channel current, indicative of reactions occurring at individual subunits. Extension of single-channel SCAM using MTS-ET+ into the first transmembrane domain, TM1, revealed continued accessibility at the extracellular end at A39 and L35. The topologically complementary region in TM3 showed no evidence of reactivity. Structural models show GJ channels in the extracellular gap to have continuous inner and outer walls of protein. If representative of open channels and hemichannels, these data indicate E1 as constituting a significant portion of this inner, pore-forming wall, and TM1 contributing as pore-lining in the extracellular portion of transmembrane span.

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