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Cell Rep. 2012 Aug 30;2(2):242-8. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.06.016. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Convergent evolution of sodium ion selectivity in metazoan neuronal signaling.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Israel.


Ion selectivity of metazoan voltage-gated Na(+) channels is critical for neuronal signaling and has long been attributed to a ring of four conserved amino acids that constitute the ion selectivity filter (SF) at the channel pore. Yet, in addition to channels with a preference for Ca(2+) ions, the expression and characterization of Na(+) channel homologs from the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis, a member of the early-branching metazoan phylum Cnidaria, revealed a sodium-selective channel bearing a noncanonical SF. Mutagenesis and physiological assays suggest that pore elements additional to the SF determine the preference for Na(+) in this channel. Phylogenetic analysis assigns the Nematostella Na(+)-selective channel to a channel group unique to Cnidaria, which diverged >540 million years ago from Ca(2+)-conducting Na(+) channel homologs. The identification of Cnidarian Na(+)-selective ion channels distinct from the channels of bilaterian animals indicates that selectivity for Na(+) in neuronal signaling emerged independently in these two animal lineages.

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