Proton and zinc effects on HERG currents

Biophys J. 1999 Jul;77(1):282-98. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(99)76889-X.


The proton and Zn2+ effects on the human ether-a-go-go related gene (HERG) channels were studied after expression in Xenopus oocytes and stable transfection in the mammalian L929 cell line. Experiments were carried out using the two-electrode voltage clamp at room temperature (oocytes) or the whole-cell patch clamp technique at 35 degrees C (L929 cells). In oocytes, during moderate extracellular acidification (pHo = 6.4), current activation was not shifted on the voltage axis, the time course of current activation was unchanged, but tail current deactivation was dramatically accelerated. At pHo < 6.4, in addition to accelerating deactivation, the time course of activation was slower and the midpoint voltage of current activation was shifted to more positive values. Protons and Zn2+ accelerated the kinetics of deactivation with apparent Kd values about one order of magnitude lower than for tail current inhibition. For protons, the Kd values for the effect on tail current amplitude versus kinetics were, respectively, 1.8 microM (pKa = 5.8) and 0.1 microM (pKa = 7.0). In the presence of Zn2+, the corresponding Kd values were, respectively, 1.2 mM and 169 microM. In L929 cells, acidification to pHo = 6.4 did not shift the midpoint voltage of current activation and had no effect on the time course of current activation. Furthermore, the onset and recovery of inactivation were not affected. However, the acidification significantly accelerated tail current deactivation. We conclude that protons and Zn2+ directly interact with HERG channels and that the interaction results, preferentially, in the regulation of channel deactivation mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cation Transport Proteins*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • ERG1 Potassium Channel
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • L Cells
  • Mice
  • Microinjections
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels / chemistry*
  • Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated*
  • Protons
  • RNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Trans-Activators*
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG
  • Transfection
  • Xenopus
  • Zinc / pharmacology*


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • ERG protein, human
  • ERG1 Potassium Channel
  • Ether-A-Go-Go Potassium Channels
  • KCNH2 protein, human
  • KCNH6 protein, human
  • Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated
  • Protons
  • RNA, Complementary
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG
  • Zinc