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Nat Commun. 2014 Sep 26;5:5015. doi: 10.1038/ncomms6015.

A non-inactivating high-voltage-activated two-pore Na⁺ channel that supports ultra-long action potentials and membrane bistability.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, 415 South University Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Action potentials (APs) are fundamental cellular electrical signals. The genesis of short APs lasting milliseconds is well understood. Ultra-long APs (ulAPs) lasting seconds to minutes also occur in eukaryotic organisms, but their biological functions and mechanisms of generation are largely unknown. Here, we identify TPC3, a previously uncharacterized member of the two-pore channel protein family, as a new voltage-gated Na(+) channel (NaV) that generates ulAPs, and that establishes membrane potential bistability. Unlike the rapidly inactivating NaVs that generate short APs in neurons, TPC3 has a high activation threshold, activates slowly and does not inactivate-three properties that help generate long-lasting APs and guard the membrane against unintended perturbation. In amphibian oocytes, TPC3 forms a channel similar to channels induced by depolarization and sperm entry into eggs. TPC3 homologues are present in plants and animals, and they may be important for cellular processes and behaviours associated with prolonged membrane depolarization.

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