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

Distinct populations of HCN pacemaker channels produce voltage-dependent and voltage-independent currents.

Hyperpolarization-activated HCN pacemaker channels are critical for the generation of spontaneous activity and the regulation of excitability in the heart and in many types of neurons. These channels produce both a voltage-dependent current (I(h)) and a voltage-independent current (I(inst) or VIC). In this study, we explored the molecular basis of the voltage-independent current. We found that for the spHCN isoform, VIC averaged approximately 4% of the maximum HCN conductance that could be activated by hyperpolarization. Cyclic AMP increased the voltage-independent current in spHCN to approximately 8% of maximum. In HCN2, VIC was approximately 2% of the maximal current, and was little affected by cAMP. VIC in both spHCN and HCN2 was blocked rapidly both by ZD7288 (an HCN channel blocker that is thought to bind in the conduction pore) and by application of Cd2+ to channels containing an introduced cysteine in the pore (spHCN-464C or HCN2-436C). These results suggest that VIC flows through the main conduction pathway, down the central axis of the protein. We suspected that VIC simply represented a nonzero limiting open probability for HCN channels at positive voltages. Surprisingly, we found instead that the spHCN channels carrying VIC were not in rapid equilibrium with the channels carrying the voltage-dependent current, because they could be blocked independently; a single application of blocker at a depolarized potential essentially eliminated VIC with little change in I(h). Thus, VIC appears to be produced by a distinct population of HCN channels. This voltage-independent current could contribute significantly to the role of HCN channels in neurons and myocytes; VIC flowing through the channels at physiological potentials would tend to promote excitability by accelerating both depolarization and repolarization.[1]


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