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J Physiol. 2006 Nov 1;576(Pt 3):739-54. Epub 2006 Jul 27.

A conserved ring of charge in mammalian Na+ channels: a molecular regulator of the outer pore conformation during slow inactivation.

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Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 720 Rutland Ave/Ross 844, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The molecular mechanisms underlying slow inactivation in sodium channels are elusive. Our results suggest that EEDD, a highly conserved ring of charge in the external vestibule of mammalian voltage-gated sodium channels, undermines slow inactivation. By employing site-directed mutagenesis, we found that charge alterations in this asymmetric yet strong local electrostatic field of the EEDD ring significantly altered the kinetics of slow inactivation gating. Using a non-linear Poisson-Boltzmann equation, quantitative computations of the electrostatic field in a sodium channel structural model suggested a significant electrostatic repulsion between residues E403 and E758 at close proximity. Interestingly, when this electrostatic interaction was eliminated by the double mutation E403C + E758C, the kinetics of recovery from slow inactivation of the double-mutant channel was retarded by 2500% compared to control. These data suggest that the EEDD ring, located within the asymmetric electric field, is a molecular motif that critically modulates slow inactivation in sodium channels.

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