The pore of the catfish olfactory cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channel contains four conserved glutamate residues, one from each subunit, that form a high-affinity binding site for extracellular divalent cations. Previous work showed that these residues form two independent and equivalent high-pKa (approximately 7.6) proton binding sites, giving rise to three pH-dependent conductance states, and it was suggested that the sites were formed by pairing of the glutamates into two independent carboxyl-carboxylates. To test further this physical picture, wild-type CNG subunits were coexpressed in Xenopus oocytes with subunits lacking the critical glutamate residue, and single channel currents through hybrid CNG channels containing one to three wild-type (WT) subunits were recorded. One of these hybrid channels had two pH-dependent conductance states whose occupancy was controlled by a single high-pKa protonation site. Expression of dimers of concatenated CNG channel subunits confirmed that this hybrid contained two WT and two mutant subunits, supporting the idea that a single protonation site is made from two glutamates (dimer expression also implied the subunit makeup of the other hybrid channels). Thus, the proton binding sites in the WT channel occur as a result of the pairing of two glutamate residues. This conclusion places these residues in close proximity to one another in the pore and implies that at any instant in time detailed fourfold symmetry is disrupted.