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J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 19;279(12):11006-15. Epub 2003 Dec 29.

pH Dependency and desensitization kinetics of heterologously expressed combinations of acid-sensing ion channel subunits.

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NeuroSearch A/S, Pederstrupvej 93, DK-2750 Ballerup, Denmark.


The exact subunit combinations of functional native acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) have not been established yet, but both homomeric and heteromeric channels are likely to exist. To determine the ability of different subunits to assemble into heteromeric channels, a number of ASIC1a-, ASIC1b-, ASIC2a-, ASIC2b-, and ASIC3-containing homo- and heteromeric channels were studied by whole-cell patch clamp recordings with respect to pH sensitivity, desensitization kinetics, and level of sustained current normalized to peak current. Analyzing and comparing data for these three features demonstrated unique heteromeric channels in a number of co-expression experiments. Formation of heteromeric ASIC1a+2a and ASIC1b+2a channels was foremost supported by the desensitization characteristics that were independent of proton concentration, a feature none of the respective homomeric channels has. Several lines of evidence supported formation of ASIC1a+3, ASIC1b+3, and ASIC2a+3 heteromeric channels. The most compelling was the desensitization characteristics, which, besides being proton-independent, were faster than those of any of the respective homomeric channels. ASIC2b, which homomerically expressed is not activated by protons per se, did not appear to form unique heteromeric combinations with other subunits and in fact appeared to suppress the function of ASIC1b. Co-expression of three subunits such as ASIC1a+2a+3 and ASIC1b+2a+3 resulted in data that could best be explained by coexistence of multiple channel populations within the same cell. This observation seems to be in good agreement with the fact that ASIC-expressing sensory neurons display a variety of acid-evoked currents.

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