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EMBO J. 2008 Sep 17;27(18):2388-99. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2008.161. Epub 2008 Aug 14.

A glial DEG/ENaC channel functions with neuronal channel DEG-1 to mediate specific sensory functions in C. elegans.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA.

Erratum in

  • EMBO J. 2008 Oct 8;27(19):2638.


Mammalian neuronal DEG/ENaC channels known as ASICs (acid-sensing ion channels) mediate sensory perception and memory formation. ASICS are closed at rest and are gated by protons. Members of the DEG/ENaC family expressed in epithelial tissues are called ENaCs and mediate Na(+) transport across epithelia. ENaCs exhibit constitutive activity and strict Na(+) selectivity. We report here the analysis of the first DEG/ENaC in Caenorhabditis elegans with functional features of ENaCs that is involved in sensory perception. ACD-1 (acid-sensitive channel, degenerin-like) is constitutively open and impermeable to Ca(2+), yet it is required with neuronal DEG/ENaC channel DEG-1 for acid avoidance and chemotaxis to the amino acid lysine. Surprisingly, we document that ACD-1 is required in glia rather than neurons to orchestrate sensory perception. We also report that ACD-1 is inhibited by extracellular and intracellular acidification and, based on the analysis of an acid-hypersensitive ACD-1 mutant, we propose a mechanism of action of ACD-1 in sensory responses based on its sensitivity to protons. Our findings suggest that channels with ACD-1 features may be expressed in mammalian glia and have important functions in controlling neuronal function.

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