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J Biol Chem. 2012 Nov 9;287(46):39061-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.397646. Epub 2012 Sep 19.

Identification of the cysteine residue responsible for disulfide linkage of Na+ channel α and β2 subunits.

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Department of Pharmacology and Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Voltage-gated Na(+) channels in the brain are composed of a single pore-forming α subunit, one non-covalently linked β subunit (β1 or β3), and one disulfide-linked β subunit (β2 or β4). The final step in Na(+) channel biosynthesis in central neurons is concomitant α-β2 disulfide linkage and insertion into the plasma membrane. Consistent with this, Scn2b (encoding β2) null mice have reduced Na(+) channel cell surface expression in neurons, and action potential conduction is compromised. Here we generated a series of mutant β2 cDNA constructs to investigate the cysteine residue(s) responsible for α-β2 subunit covalent linkage. We demonstrate that a single cysteine-to-alanine substitution at extracellular residue Cys-26, located within the immunoglobulin (Ig) domain, abolishes the covalent linkage between α and β2 subunits. Loss of α-β2 covalent complex formation disrupts the targeting of β2 to nodes of Ranvier in a myelinating co-culture system and to the axon initial segment in primary hippocampal neurons, suggesting that linkage with α is required for normal β2 subcellular localization in vivo. WT β2 subunits are resistant to live cell Triton X-100 detergent extraction from the hippocampal axon initial segment, whereas mutant β2 subunits, which cannot form disulfide bonds with α, are removed by detergent. Taken together, our results demonstrate that α-β2 covalent association via a single, extracellular disulfide bond is required for β2 targeting to specialized neuronal subcellular domains and for β2 association with the neuronal cytoskeleton within those domains.

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