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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Protons activate the delta-subunit of the epithelial Na+ channel in humans.

The amiloride-sensitive epithelial Na(+) channel (ENaC) controls Na(+) transport into cells and across epithelia. So far, four homologous subunits of mammalian ENaC have been isolated and are denoted as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. ENaCdelta can associate with beta and gamma subunits and generate a constitutive current that is 2 orders of magnitude larger than that of homomeric ENaCdelta. However, the distribution pattern of ENaCdelta is not consistent with that of the beta and gamma subunits. ENaCdelta is expressed mainly in the brain in contrast to beta and gamma subunits, which are expressed in non-neuronal tissues. To explain this discrepancy, we searched for novel functional properties of homomeric ENaCdelta and investigated the detailed tissue distribution in humans. When human ENaCdelta was expressed in Xenopus oocytes and Chinese hamster ovary cells, a reduction of extracellular pH activated this channel (half-maximal pH for an activation of 5.0), and the acid-induced current was abolished by amiloride. The most striking finding was that the desensitization of the acid-evoked current was much slower (by approximately 10% 120 s later), dissociating from the kinetics of acid-sensing ion channels in the degenerin/epithelial Na(+) channel family, which were rapidly desensitized during acidification. RNA dot-blot analyses showed that ENaCdelta mRNA was widely distributed throughout the brain and was also expressed in the heart, kidney, and pancreas in humans. Northern blotting confirmed that ENaCdelta was expressed in the cerebellum and the hippocampus. In conclusion, human ENaCdelta activity is regulated by protons, indicating that it may contribute to the pH sensation and/or pH regulation in the human brain.[1]


  1. Protons activate the delta-subunit of the epithelial Na+ channel in humans. Yamamura, H., Ugawa, S., Ueda, T., Nagao, M., Shimada, S. J. Biol. Chem. (2004) [Pubmed]
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