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Semin Nephrol. 1998 Mar;18(2):138-51.

Structure and function of the Mec-ENaC family of ion channels.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8026, USA.


The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) is the prototype of a new family of ion channels known as the Mec-ENaC superfamily. This new family of proteins are involved in a wide variety of functions that range from maintenance of sodium homeostasis to transduction of mechanical stimuli and nociceptive pain by specialized neurons. They show distinct tissue- and cell type-dependent expression and differential sensitivity to inhibition by the diuretic amiloride and its analogs. Despite the very little amino acid identity shared by these proteins, they all have the same common structure that has become a hallmark of the Mec-ENaC superfamily. The efforts to understand the structure and regulation of these ion channels have been stimulated by the recent discovery of severe disturbances in the maintenance of blood pressure caused by gain- or loss-of-function mutations in the genes that encode the subunits of ENaC in humans. Moreover, cloning of the ion channels that mediate pain elicited by tissue injury and inflammation will facilitate the development of new drugs to treat these common ailments.

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