DEG/ENaC channels: a touchy superfamily that watches its salt

Bioessays. 1999 Jul;21(7):568-78. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199907)21:7<568::AID-BIES5>3.0.CO;2-L.


To the surprise of many, studies of molecular mechanisms of touch transduction and analyses of epithelial Na+ transport have converged to define a new class of ion channel subunits. Based on the names of the first two identified subfamilies, the Caenorhabditis elegans degenerins and the vertebrate epithelial amiloride-sensitive Na+ channel, this ion channel class is called the DEG/ENaC superfamily. Members of the DEG/ENaC superfamily have been found in nematodes, flies, snails, and vertebrates. Family members share common topology, such that they span the membrane twice and have intracellular N- and C-termini; a large extracellular loop includes a conserved cysteine-rich region. DEG/ENaC channels have been implicated a broad spectrum of cellular functions, including mechanosensation, proprioception, pain sensation, gametogenesis, and epithelial Na+ transport. These channels exhibit diverse gating properties, ranging from near constitutive opening to rapid inactivation. We discuss working understanding of DEG/ENaC functions, channel properties, structure/activity correlations and possible evolutionary relationship to other channel classes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acid Sensing Ion Channels
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Degenerin Sodium Channels
  • Drosophila
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • Gametogenesis
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sodium / metabolism*
  • Sodium Channels / physiology*


  • ASIC2 protein, human
  • Acid Sensing Ion Channels
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Degenerin Sodium Channels
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • FaNaCh protein, Helix aspersa
  • Ion Channels
  • Mec-4 protein, C elegans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Sodium Channels
  • Sodium