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J Physiol. 2008 Jan 15;586(2):419-25. Epub 2007 Nov 15.

Orai1 subunit stoichiometry of the mammalian CRAC channel pore.

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Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Agonist-activated Ca2+ entry plays a critical role in Ca2+ signalling in non-excitable cells. One mode of such entry is activated as a consequence of the depletion of intracellular Ca2+ stores. This depletion is sensed by the protein STIM1 in the endoplasmic reticulum, which then translocates to regions close to the plasma membrane where it induces the activation of store-operated conductances. The most thoroughly studied of these conductances are the Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels, and recent studies have identified the protein Orai1 as comprising the essential pore-forming subunit of these channels. Although evidence suggests that Orai1 can assemble as homomultimers, whether this assembly is necessary for the formation of functional CRAC channels and, if so, their relevant stoichiometry is unknown. To examine this, we have used an approach involving the expression of preassembled tandem Orai1 multimers comprising different numbers of subunits into cells stably overexpressing STIM1, followed by the recording of maximally activated CRAC channel currents. In each case, any necessity for recruitment of additional Orai1 units to these preassembled multimers in order to form functional channels was evaluated by coexpression with a dominant-negative Orai1 mutant. In this way we were able to demonstrate, for the first time, that the functional CRAC channel pore is formed by a tetrameric assembly of Orai1 subunits.

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