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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 5;279(10):9532-8. Epub 2003 Dec 9.

A superfamily of voltage-gated sodium channels in bacteria.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Cardiovascular Research, Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


NaChBac, a six-alpha-helical transmembrane-spanning protein cloned from Bacillus halodurans, is the first functionally characterized bacterial voltage-gated Na(+)-selective channel. As a highly expressing ion channel protein, NaChBac is an ideal candidate for high resolution structural determination and structure-function studies. The biological role of NaChBac, however, is still unknown. In this report, another 11 structurally related bacterial proteins are described. Two of these functionally expressed as voltage-dependent Na(+) channels (Na(V)PZ from Paracoccus zeaxanthinifaciens and Na(V)SP from Silicibacter pomeroyi). Na(V)PZ and Na(V)SP share approximately 40% amino acid sequence identity with NaChBac. When expressed in mammalian cell lines, both Na(V)PZ and Na(V)SP were Na(+)-selective and voltage-dependent. However, their kinetics and voltage dependence differ significantly. These single six-alpha-helical transmembrane-spanning subunits constitute a widely distributed superfamily (Na(V)Bac) of channels in bacteria, implying a fundamental prokaryotic function. The degree of sequence homology (22-54%) is optimal for future comparisons of Na(V)Bac structure and function of similarity and dissimilarity among Na(V)Bac proteins. Thus, the Na(V)Bac superfamily is fertile ground for crystallographic, electrophysiological, and microbiological studies.

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