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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 29;32(9):3142-53. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5518-11.2012.

CNG-modulin: a novel Ca-dependent modulator of ligand sensitivity in cone photoreceptor cGMP-gated ion channels.

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Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


The transduction current in several different types of sensory neurons arises from the activity of cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) ion channels. The channels in these sensory neurons vary in structure and function, yet each one demonstrates calcium-dependent modulation of ligand sensitivity mediated by the interaction of the channel with a soluble modulator protein. In cone photoreceptors, the molecular identity of the modulator protein was previously unknown. We report the discovery and characterization of CNG-modulin, a novel 301 aa protein that interacts with the N terminus of the β subunit of the cGMP-gated channel and modulates the cGMP sensitivity of the channels in cone photoreceptors of striped bass (Morone saxatilis). Immunohistochemistry and single-cell PCR demonstrate that CNG-modulin is expressed in cone but not rod photoreceptors. Adding purified recombinant CNG-modulin to cone membrane patches containing the native CNG channels shifts the midpoint of cGMP dependence from ∼91 μM in the absence of Ca(2+) to ∼332 μM in the presence of 20 μM Ca(2+). At a fixed cGMP concentration, the midpoint of the Ca(2+) dependence is ∼857 nM Ca(2+). These restored physiological features are statistically indistinguishable from the effects of the endogenous modulator. CNG-modulin binds Ca(2+) with a concentration dependence that matches the calcium dependence of channel modulation. We conclude that CNG-modulin is the authentic Ca(2+)-dependent modulator of cone CNG channel ligand sensitivity. CNG-modulin is expressed in other tissues, such as brain, olfactory epithelium, and the inner ear, and may modulate the function of ion channels in those tissues as well.

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